In the 2010 midterm elections, Democrat Mike McIntyre won reelection over Tea Party Republican Ilario Pantano, who served in Iraq with the Marine Corps, in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. Second lieutenant Ilario Pantano openly admits and legitimizes his participation in the 2005 fatal point-blank shooting of two Iraqis, who on his campaign website he describes as “terrorists.”
The two Iraqis were executed at a detention point near Falluja, where Pantano emptied the clip of his M16A4 into these two men, then reloaded and emptied another fresh clip into their bodies — already corpses –totalling nearly 60 shots fired. A later search of the Iraqis’ truck revealed no weapons. Pantano adorned the corpses with a placard bearing the Marine Core motto: “No better friend, No worse enemy.”
Military judges dropped all charges against Pantano due to “insufficient evidence,” despite witnesses claiming the two detainees were non-threats and were kneeling on the ground prior to the shooting.
Pantano was honorably discharged and proceeded to run for Congress. McIntyre avoided both the murders and Pantano’s belief that the Park51 community center planned for New York City represents Islamic “religious, ideological and territorial conquest” of the West.
These issues of murder and anti-Islamic hate were largely sidestepped in the election, downplayed in media coverage of the campaign.
The anti-war movement in the United States is lying dormant. With Bush’s exit from office, opposition to Obama’s wars has largely diminished. The public de-escalation of the Iraqi War and the Obama administration’s rebranding (to the more romantic name “Operation New Dawn”), has left progressives with the misconception that the war is over.
The acceptance of this partial withdrawal has allowed an army of private contractors to take control of Iraq’s security. These private contractors — unaccountable mercenary companies of contracted soldiers, like the now infamous Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater — are not subject to the rules of engagement, and are largely held unaccountable for their actions. American indifference has allowed these mercenaries to act without fear of public scrutiny.
While downplaying the Iraq War, Obama has escalated the more public war in Afghanistan, issuing the troop surge he promised in his presidential campaign. He has also simultaneously increased unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan, which have slaughtered thousands of Pakistani civilians. In fact, sources in the Special Operations forces for The Nation indicate that, under Obama, the Joint Special Operations Command “has been more empowered more under this administration than any other in recent history.” Furthermore, the Obama administration has presented in court the argument that the government has the unreviewable authority to target and assassinate American citizens anywhere in the world.
Obama, while receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, defended the idea of the “just war.” What is a “just war”? Obama’s definition is a war “waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.”
He then attempted to rationalize war: “We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.”
As Vietnam era anti-war protesters were quick to point out, “Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity.” Peace can never be created by the barrel of a gun. This faulty logic of “just war” reveals Obama for what he is: an imperialist warmonger, no different from Bush, looking to solidify America hegemony in the Middle East.
Regardless of the possibility of “just wars,” the US occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan stray far from Obama’s definition.
With regards to “self-defense,” Iraq was far from a threat to American national security, as the CIA’s faulty research was brought up recurrently throughout Bush’s presidency. However, Afghanistan is still justified as being crucial in the war against Al-Qaeda, regardless of the fact that the Taliban offered to try Osama Bin Laden in a court of law, an offer that the United States refused in its eagerness to invade Afghanistan.
It is also important to remember that most of the planning for 9/11 was actually done in the German city Hamburg and in Colorado and Florida — indicating how little of necessity Afghanistan is to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
In terms of “proportionality,” when terrorist attacks are perpetrated by an international organization based in several countries throughout the world, are unmanned drone bombers, tank assaults, bombing missions, and occupation a “proportional” — or even justifiable –reaction toward particular nations?
The WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs release led to Iraq Body Count increasing their documented civilian death count to an estimated 98,691 – 107,707 after identifying a previously unknown 15,000 civilian deaths, refuting the claim that this war is to protect innocent citizens. The documents also chronicle the pervasive torture and execution of Iraqi civilians by American soldiers, with many cases ignored by the military.
Civilian casualties are not formally recorded in Afghanistan, with unofficial estimates differing. However, civilian casualties in the first half of 2010 are up to 1,271, an increase from the 1,054 deaths in the first six months of 2009 and the highest total in four years. This is a far cry from civilians being “spared from violence.”
These wars, billed as bringing freedom and stability to a desperate people, have instead devastated the civilians, innocents with no relation to the terrorists this war is advertised as being against.
However, a continuation of Bush’s militaristic practices was to be expected, as history reveals that a Democratically-controlled Congress has led the United States into every major war of the Twentieth Century. Democrats’ hands are as bloodstained as those of the Republicans. Americans cannot expect Obama and Democrats to end the wars and bring the soldiers home.
Operating under the façade of bringing stability to Afghanistan, through a regime which holds little legitimacy outside the borders of Kabul, the United States will continue under this Obama Administration to occupy Afghanistan under the Cold War-era philosophy of global containment, preventing Russia and China from gaining influence in the oil-rich Middle East through alliances with anti-American nations.
American hegemony in the Middle East, threatened by both the blind aggression of Israel and blatant opposition from Iran, is attempting to revitalize itself through these occupations and the installation of puppet regimes.
Similarly, Obama’s quick defense of Israeli actions during the Freedom Flotilla incident — where Israel Defense Forces commandos killed nine activists — and his concession of the partial renewal of the settlement moratorium reveal a very Bush-like philosophy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Obama’s imperialist wars continue both the destabilization of the Middle East and the American economy that Bush began. While debate today revolves heavily around whether to extend the Bush era tax cuts, which would allow the upper class to continue to shy away from economic burden while increasing the taxes on the poorest Americans, the House recently passed a bill guaranteeing nearly $160 billion in the year 2011 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
National unemployment increased in November .2% to a 9.8% average. In March, Oakland-based Closing the Gap Initiative, an economic research group, published a study that found the median wealth for a single black woman to be a sparse $5. The 2010 Hunger in America Report documents that 5.7 million people each week receive emergency food assistance from one of its agencies– a worrisome companion to 2009’s 50.2 million Americans that lived in food insecure households. While the working class struggles heavily in this recession, the government is increasing its war budget by $31 billion from the previous year.
No country can fund both civilization and war. Obama’s imperialist approach to the Middle East region demonstrates his choice. Gliding into the presidency under the glimmer of hope and promises of change, Obama has revealed himself to be a mirror image of the much-maligned Bush. The change Obama promised does not come willingly. America is at a crossroad where, in this financial twilight, a decision must be made between the country or her colonies. The American public must reject the tired rhetoric and strategy of war, rebuilding the dormant anti-war movement to demand the change we wish to see.