Elections, Pundits, and Changing Course: It is Time to Take to the Streets

Obama's Accomplishments
By Kenneth J. Theisen

The recent elections were a resounding defeat for the Democrats and President Obama. Mainstream political pundits are now engaged in post-mortem analysis with many claiming that Obama and the Democrats went too far to the left after their victories in 2008.

But this is pure B.S. Instead of veering to the left politically, in many ways Obama’s first two years have been a continuance of the Bush regime policies - despite millions of people’s hope that Obama’s victory in 2008 would mean real change from the fascistic policies implemented during the eight years of the Bush regime.

In waging the U.S. war of terror and in his defense of the national security state, Obama was able to do many things the Bush regime would not have been able to do, or at least that would have resulted in more opposition if done by the Bush criminals. The list is long, but I will point out a few here. None of them are leftist policies. 

Hellhole prisons continue and are expanded

Remember nearly 2 years ago when Obama with much rhetorical fanfare “ordered” that the hellhole prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba be closed? Well not only has the prison not been shuttered, but the location at Guantánamo is now used to stage kangaroo “court” proceedings where prisoners are denied basic legal rights and guaranteed convictions. The recent conviction of child soldier Omar Khadr is just the latest example of this injustice. And the criminal policies that Guantánamo symbolized have actually been expanded under the Obama administration.

In Afghanistan the U.S. runs a prison at the Bagram U.S. military base that is every bit as bad as the Guantánamo hellhole. Thousands of Afghans have been held there, but the U.S. also uses the prison there to incarcerate prisoners of the U.S. war of terror captured or kidnapped in other areas of the world. Torture and death at the hands of U.S. forces have been documented at Bagram. Has the Obama administration ordered this prison to be shutdown? NO! Instead Obama requested tens of millions of dollars to build a more secure facility there. And when non-Afghan prisoners who had been captured outside of Afghanistan and held there challenged their incarceration, Obama administration lawyers went to court to argue that they had no legal standing to even assert that they were protected by the U.S. Constitution. This was the same argument made by Bush regime lawyers to deny Guantánamo prisoners the right of habeas corpus.

But Guantánamo and Bagram are only the tip of the iceberg of continuing U.S. crimes against those taken in the U.S. war of terror. In addition to the prisons run directly by the U.S., the U.S. imperialists have allowed their Afghan and Iraqi puppets to run hellhole prisons. The atrocities committed by the puppet allies in these prisons are also well documented. Torture and death in these facilities are well known to the U.S., but the Obama administration actually sped up the transfer of prisoners from U.S. custody to its criminal allies. This was partly done to avoid allowing these prisoners to challenge their incarceration in U.S. courts and also to maintain the fiction that the puppet governments of Afghanistan and Iraq are sovereign governments independent of any U.S. control. But it also minimizes scrutiny of the crimes committed in these prisons.

The Obama administration has also maintained the right to hold prisoners indefinitely without any due process. It even got the Supreme Court to dismiss a case that may have challenged this assertion.

Extraordinary rendition and torture still okay

Another of the continuing crimes of the Bush regime is that of extraordinary rendition. The Bush regime kidnapped people and then outsourced their torture by sending them to other nations where the prisoners were interrogated and tortured. The CIA was the main tool of this program, but private contractors were also used. Not only did the Obama administration state that it would continue to use extraordinary rendition, but it also has gone to court repeatedly to defend those who were instrumental in implementing the program during the Bush regime. This has included arguing that the lawsuit against the airline company that actually transported the prisoners around the world for torture not be allowed to continue because it would air “national security secrets.”

Obama’s Attorney General has also made it clear from the beginning of the administration that it would not pursue those in the Bush administration that made extraordinary rendition and torture government policy. This includes not only President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, but former attorney generals Ashcroft and Gonzales, former Secretaries of State Powell and Rice, former war secretary Rumsfeld, and many other high level officials. The legal architects of torture such as John Yoo, David Addington, and federal Judge Jay Bybee have also been told they will not be prosecuted by the Obama administration. Even the CIA agents and contractors who have conducted the torture were given get out of jail cards. In short, no one is to be held accountable for torture during the Bush regime years. Obama lawyers have even used “information” obtained under torture to prosecute alleged terrorists. None of this should come as a surprise since torture is still rampant under the Obama administration in the prisons run by the U.S. and its allies. It is just no longer a mainstream media issue as it was under Bush.

Assassinations/murder expanded under Obama

During the Bush regime drones were frequently used by the CIA and the military to kill enemies of the U.S. imperialists. All too often, civilians became collateral damage of these attacks. Not only has the Obama administration not indicted anyone for these crimes, but it has greatly expanded the so-called targeted assassination program. Obama has openly stated that his administration has the right to do this. He has even made public jokes about it.

His administration now makes regular attacks across the border into Pakistan. U.S. attacks have also been carried out in other areas of the world. The total number of murders conducted is not known because the program is covert by its nature. But it is known that at least hundreds of civilians have been killed. In addition to these murders, it is a violation of international law to launch attacks against other nations such as Pakistan. These attacks are now so common that they receive very minimal media coverage in mainstream U.S. outlets. But they receive plenty of coverage in nations such as Pakistan and there is widespread outrage in these nations toward the U.S. because of these attacks and other U.S. crimes.

U.S. war of terror continued and expanded

Many who voted for Obama in 2008 thought he would bring an end to the U.S. war of terror against the world. But the opposite has been the result. In Iraq, Obama’s policies have continued the war and also quelled opposition to the war. It is true that Obama has drawn down U.S. troop strength in Iraq. But the war continues with some 50,000 U.S. troops still there. In addition there are still tens of thousands of U.S. contractors present and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad has thousands of employees to maintain the U.S. control there. The U.S. also has thousands of foreign military allies still on the ground and over 100,000 Iraqi puppet forces working on its behalf.

And what did Obama do with the U.S. forces he removed from Iraq? He used the freed-up military strength to greatly expand the war in Afghanistan. Now there are over 200,000 U.S. troops and U.S. contractors on the ground in Afghanistan. Obama used “diplomacy” to pressure U.S. allies to increase their troops as well. The U.S. and its allies are also training Afghan puppet troops to act on behalf of U.S. imperialism.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan the puppet governments are among the most corrupt in the world. The U.S. has allied itself in those countries with those willing to collaborate with imperialism so it should not come as a surprise that feudal elements, drug lords, war lords, reactionary religious leaders and other more backward elements compose the base of these governments and contribute “leaders” to the government.

But under the Obama administration, the U.S. war of terror has not been confined to Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been expanded. As mentioned earlier the use of drone attacks has been greatly escalated in Pakistan. The U.S. is also training Pakistani troops to wage war in Pakistan. The U.S. has used bribes in the form of military and civilian aid and also pressure to force the Pakistan government to attack so-called terrorist areas to the extent that Pakistan has been engaged in a limited civil war for nearly the last two years. Tens of millions of Pakistanis have suffered as a result.

On top of all of this, the U.S. under Obama is waging a so-called covert war in many other nations. As I have written on this site before, former U.S. CentCom commander General Petraeus signed an order in September 2009 expanding the use of covert war in the area under CentCom command. This includes most of the Middle East and Central Asia. Much of this activity is still unknown, but in some countries such as Yemen we can already see the results, with millions suffering. U.S. military aid to the reactionary and corrupt Yemen government has resulted in continuing government raids into the countryside and also attacks in the cities where hundreds if not thousands have been killed. U.S. troops are on the ground in Yemen training government forces.

While the numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan can be determined with some accuracy, there is little mention of the other forces deployed near these war zones. For instance a nuclear aircraft carrier and its accompanying force were recently deployed near Afghanistan to increase the air support for ground troops in Afghanistan. Similar naval forces are deployed near Iraq and Iran. In addition, the U.S. maintains bases throughout the CentCom region with tens of thousands of troops at these bases. The U.S. uses bases such as that in Diego Garcia (owned by the British, but for all intents and purposes U.S. base) in the Indian Ocean to operate other U.S. war forces.

The U.S. also continues to support Israel as its imperialist military outpost in the Middle East with billions of dollars each year. Obama has either openly or tacitly supported Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people during his nearly 2 years in office. In addition to Israel, the U.S. supplies aid and weapons to reactionary regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia in order to perpetuate its dominance in the region.

Big Brother is watching you

During the Bush regime most of us became aware that the government had expanded the use of surveillance. But all too often we were told that the real targets of this spying were “terrorists.” Yes we were sometimes told of abuses, but then we were led to believe that these were somehow curbed. But the reality is that massive surveillance continues, and the Obama administration has done what it can to further expand government spy powers.

If you have a telephone or a computer it is likely that your telecommunications company is working closely with the NSA, FBI and other U.S. spy agencies to intercept your phone calls, emails, and financial information. NSA surveillance equipment is set up to intercept virtually all communications. Laws such as the PATRIOT Act and the revised FISA law were passed with Democratic support, including Obama’s vote, to enable and legalize this during the Bush regime. But apparently those invasive laws are not enough for the Obama administration.

It is now pushing to expand laws requiring telecommunication companies to cooperate more closely with big brother in its vast wiretap operation. Obama’s spies state that tougher laws are needed because new technologies and upgrades have caused technical problems for those spying on us. The administration wants to strengthen the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). It wants CALEA to require that telecommunications companies and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have built-in surveillance capabilities, allowing federal agencies to monitor all communications in real-time. The FBI wants to expand the law to cover companies like Skype and also social networking sites like Facebook. It wants to increase pressure on telecommunications companies that don't respond promptly to CALEA requests. It wants to be able to fine these companies or to bill them if government spy technicians are required to come in and deal with technical problems that prevent spying.

The war on immigrants

By its very nature, imperialism expands into other nations and impoverishes billions of people. As a result many of these people move to other nations including this one - the leading imperialist nation. Also as a direct result the U.S. is home to over 10 million undocumented immigrants and tens of millions more documented immigrants.

The Obama administration has been waging a quiet war on many of these immigrants. Armed forces have been deployed to the border. Not only has Obama increased the number of ICE and border control officers by thousands, but he has sent in the National Guard as well.

From October 2009 to September 2010, the Obama administration deported 392,862 persons from the U.S. This is a record number of deportations. Tens of thousands of immigrants have also been imprisoned for immigration “crimes” under Obama. Each year Obama’s border control policies cause hundreds of deaths at the border. In 2009 there were 417 deaths reported of people trying to cross the U.S. Mexican border. But this greatly underestimates the deaths of those trying to come to the U.S. It does not include the bodies not discovered. It does not include those who die at sea trying to reach the U.S. Obama’s immigration policies kill.

As is evident by actions in Arizona and other places, immigrants are blamed for the lack of jobs, crimes, poverty, and many other problems that are the natural result of capitalism. They have become the scapegoats for the crimes of imperialism. This did not start under Obama, but it does continue under him and criminalization of immigrants has expanded.

What needs to be done?

As is clear from the above, the Obama administration did not move to the left of the Bush regime when it comes to the needs of U.S. imperialism. The administration and the cooperating Democrat-led Congress have done all they can to continue the imperialist crimes of the Bush regime. Since taking over congress in 2006, trillions have been spent by Congress on the U.S. war machine - enabling it to continue the U.S. war of terror. Each year the military and spy budgets were increased. But none of the above was really even discussed in the recent election. Instead we were treated to an election where ads that declared a candidate was “not a witch” were discussed for countless hours on TV by news pundits and their guests.

Now we are supposed to believe that the country moved too far to the left and it is time for us to move the country to the right? This is a lie that is meant to further the fascistic course begun under Bush and continued under Obama. Instead this is a time where we must increase our opposition to this criminal course. If we do not stop it soon it may be too late to stop it at all. This is not the time for acquiescence and demoralization on the left. We must step up our efforts and mobilize millions to see beyond the elections. Elections in 2006, 2008 and now in 2010 were never meant to allow us to change the direction of U.S. fascistic imperialist forces. They were meant to misdirect opposition. But false leaders will now step forward and tell us to wait until 2012 to change things again. We will be told we must direct our efforts into the electoral process. For many this will be aimed at “moving the Democrats to support a people’s program.”

But don’t be a sucker. The electoral process is not the answer and will only result in more defeats for any progressive agenda or hopes to derail the fascist program. We must mobilize millions to take to the streets and soon. Only if these millions oppose the ruling class and the fascistic direction of the last decade can we ever hope to achieve what people actually need. As our name makes clear, the world can’t wait.