Thursday, November 08, 2012

BRENDAN O'NEILL on Obama's anti-terrorism record, which he labels as a failure:

His administration’s specific failures are easy to measure. The key reason young people in particular got so excited about Obama in 2008 is because he was the anti-Bush – he presented himself as anti-war, regularly criticising the decision to invade Iraq, and he wrung his hands over Bush’s sacrifice of liberty at the altar of security.

Yet, Obama has proved himself as keen on bombing foreigners as his predecessor was. In fact, he is deploying six times as many drone strikes in Pakistan as Bush ever did, and with far more lethal levels of inaccuracy: where a third of drone strikes under Bush killed a militant leader, only around 13 per cent of Obama’s drone strikes have done so.

The strikes have, however, killed hundreds upon hundreds of civilians, often entire families. In Obama’s 283 strikes in Pakistan, at least 1,494 people and up to 2,618 people have been killed – very few of them Islamic militants. Under Obama, America has expanded its drone wars to Somalia and Yemen, too. Yet there have been virtually no public demonstrations against Obama’s warmongering, certainly nothing like the big, rowdy demos that greeted Bush’s foreign ventures. Perhaps that’s because no actual American soldiers are at risk in these remote-controlled attacks on brown and black people "over there", so what is there to freak out about?

As for Obama’s stance on civil liberties, he has well and truly carried on where Bush left off. Bush was regularly attacked for turning the National Security Agency into an hysterical spying outfit, which could basically listen in on the calls and read the emails of every American citizen; Obama has expanded the NSA’s illiberal, interfering remit. In the name of tackling terrorism, he has further undermined the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures” by the state and its agents; he has virtually obliterated Habeas Corpus, the age-old principle that people who are arrested should be brought before a judge rather than being left to languish in jail; and he has assumed the right, without judicial review, to assassinate American citizens suspected of being involved in terrorism. As the New York Times rather politely remarked, “It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing”.