From War to
Experience tells us it matters little whether a liberal
democrat or an autocratic republican sits in the White
By Stanley L Cohen
January 24, 2017 "Information
Jazeera " -
Well, it's over …
and good riddance. What began with a purchased Nobel
Peace Prize and a lecture to the Middle East, under the
then omnipotent eyes of Hosni Mubarak, has ended with a
parting bang … yet another round of massive US air
strikes in Libya and Syria.
cynicism, but if history is, in fact, a fair guidepost
of what comes to be, Barack Obama's parting shots at
so-called "jihadi" camps most likely did little more
than slaughter civilians … thereby enticing 10 times as
many others to pick up a gun or a bomb and strike back,
however possible, wherever feasible.
Eight years ago
the world held its collective breath for what would
prove to be an all-too-brief moment with the election of
a self-professed anti-war "liberal" to the most powerful
and deadly office in the world.
2002, then Senator Obama, an orator of rare talent with
keen mind and extraordinary youthful vigour and promise,
announced he was "opposed to dumb wars". He was going to
be different. He said so. He lied.
Well … not
quite. He was different. After all, he's the only
two-term president in US history who has waged war every
single day of his eight years in office. Indeed, not to
be outdone by the hawkish George W Bush, Obama conducted
air strikes on seven
countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen,
Libya and Syria. That's three more than Bush bombed.
During his two
terms, our peace
president ordered a total of 563 "special" air
strikes, largely carried out by drones, that targeted
Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, in particular, compared to
"but" 57 such strikes under Bush.
impossible to know for sure, the total number of those
killed by these attacks during attempts to target three
dozen or so "terrorists" - including US citizens
afforded no due process - apparently resulted in the
deaths of almost 1,200 civilians . As a parting peace
gesture, Obama left behind "Special Operation Forces"
deployed to more than 130 nations; that's 70 percent of
the world's countries.
On the other
hand, let's give some credit where credit is due. Obama
did slap around Benjamin Netanyahu to the tune of $38bn,
largely for weapons, before refusing to veto the
settlement resolution in the United Nations.
War means profit, and that's
something that brings a huge smile
to the face of the new president.
The US invasions of Iraq and
Afghanistan alone have earned the
American weapons industry trillions
of dollars and counting.
which has obtained more than $100bn worth of weapons
during the Obama administration, heard its "concerns"
about how US-made weapons were being used in Yemen
before proceeding to purchase another 153 tanks, and
hundreds of machine guns in a deal worth $1.15bn.
Egypt also felt
the pinch of Obama's pacifist hand when he required that
it make "credible progress towards democracy" before
releasing billions in military aid frozen since Abdel
Fattah el-Sisi came to power after the military coup
that toppled the elected government of President Mohamed
Morsi. We all know how well Egypt has been progressing
in its steady slither towards democracy.
Perhaps, in a
strange sort of way, the election of Donald Trump,
consumed by the chase of money and women in that order,
may at day's end be the best thing in years that has
happened for the prospects of peace in the Middle East.
Unlike Obama -
who has spent his lifetime wanting to be loved and who
figured the best way to earn it was by proving just how
tough he could be - Trump has spent his life proudly
ensuring there's just nothing there to love and,
seemingly, could not care less about it.
Maybe, when it
comes to war, the shrinks are right: those who need to
prove just how tough they can be are far more dangerous
than those who just don't give a damn. Hope surely
But wait a
minute; these guys in the Trump cabinet seem awfully
familiar, don't they? Isn't that
retired General James "Mad Dog" Mattis wearing an Armani
suit? Wasn't he the general who lost his tour of duty
because Obama found him too hawkish on Iran as he pushed
the military to punish it and its allies through more
covert actions to capture and kill Iranian operatives
and interdict its warships? Didn't he only recently
oversee combat operations throughout the Middle East?
And that other
guy in the corner - the one looking awfully nervous
sitting there without his chest full of medals - can
that be retired Marine General John Kelly? Wasn't he in
charge of Guantanamo; you, know, the guy that challenged
Obama any time the president had the temerity to bring
up the subject of closing it? Didn't he lose a son to
combat in Afghanistan against the Taliban?
How about that
third guy? He looks an awful lot like retired Army
Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn, whom Obama forced out
of the Defense Intelligence Agency (the Pentagon's
version of the CIA) because of his description of Islam
as a "cancer" and saying "fear of Muslims is rational".
What's the worry with him as National Security Adviser?
really think that Trump can - or cares to - reign in a
collection of misanthrope generals with likely a century
or more of battle scars … those warriors that see peace
as very much a pastime of the meek … who see moderation
as soft, quiet as weak, and talk but prelude to attack ?
Of course not.
What of Trump
himself? Though he's gone on record as being opposed to
regime change and committed to allies assuming more of
their own military costs, he's often expressed a hawkish
stand on the Middle East, specifically with regard to
the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and
sees other threats, real and imagined, against the US
to money - big money. Indeed, Trump has called for tens
of thousands of additional troops; a Navy of 350 ships;
a significantly larger Air Force; an anti-missile,
Wars-style programme; and an acceleration of the
trillion "modernisation" programme for its
profit, and that's something that brings a huge smile to
the face of the new president. The US invasions of Iraq
and Afghanistan alone have earned the American weapons
industry trillions of dollars and counting.
It's not by
accident that in the days following Trump's election,
stock values for military contractors soared: Lockheed
Martin - up 4.8 percent; Northrop Grumman - up 5.1
percent; Raytheon - up 6.2 percent; General Dynamics -
up 4.1 percent; L-3 Communications - up 5.4 percent;
Textron - up 2.2 percent; Boeing - up 0.76 percent;
Huntington Ingalls - up 6.5 percent.
While hope may
spring eternal, reality flows from bitter experience.
Here, that experience should tell us that it matters
little whether a liberal democrat or an autocratic
republican sits in the White House.
In the history
of the US, colonialism has always found a "welcome" host
in the Middle East, with or without its age old network
of surrogates. It knows of no such restraint as
political party or allegiance.
military madness make for a bad combination indeed. That
marriage will continue as eight years of unabated war
will surely grow to 12.
Stanley L Cohen is
a lawyer and human rights activist who has done
extensive work in the Middle East and Africa.
expressed in this article are solely those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
Information Clearing House.