In the midst of a very effective speech in defense of an important deal with Iran, Obama proudly summarizes a disgraceful part of his legacy: one of militarism and aggression.
President Obama yesterday spoke in defense of the Iran deal at American University, launching an unusually blunt and aggressive attack on deal opponents. Obama’s blistering criticisms aimed at the Israeli government and its neocon supporters were accurate and unflinching, including the obvious fact that what they really crave is regime change and war. About opposition to the deal from the Israeli government, he said: “It would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.”
Judged as a speech, it was an impressive and effective rhetorical defense of the deal, which is why leading deal opponents have reacted so hysterically. The editors of Bloomberg View — which has spewed one Iraq-War-fearmongering-type article after the next about the deal masquerading as “reporting” — whined that Obama was “denigrating those who disagree with him” and that “it would be far better to win this fight fairly.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pronounced himself “especially insulted” and said Obama’s speech went “way over the line of civil discourse.” Our nation’s Churchillian warriors are such sensitive souls: sociopathically indifferent to the lives they continually extinguish around the world (provided it all takes place far away from their comfort and safety), but deeply, deeply hurt — “especially insulted” — by mean words directed at them and their motives.
Beyond accurately describing Iran deal opponents, Obama also accurately described himself and his own record of militarism. To defend against charges that he Loves the Terrorists, he boasted:
As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from using force when necessary. I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat. …
I’ve ordered military action in seven countries.
By “ordered military actions in seven countries,” what he means is that he has ordered bombs dropped, and he has extinguished the lives of thousands of innocent people, in seven different countries, all of which just so happen to be predominantly Muslim.
The list includes one country where he twice escalated a war that was being waged when he was inaugurated (Afghanistan), another where he withdrew troops to great fanfare only to then order a new bombing campaign (Iraq), two countries where he converted very rare bombings into a constant stream of American violence featuring cluster bombs and “signature strikes” (Pakistan and Yemen), one country where he continued the policy of bombing at will (Somalia), and one country where he started a brand new war even in the face of Congressional rejection of his authorization to do so, leaving it in tragic shambles (Libya). That doesn’t count the aggression by allies that he sanctioned and supported (in Gaza), nor the proxy wars he enabled (the current Saudi devastation of Yemen), nor the whole new front of cyberattacks he has launched, nor the multiple despots he has propped up, nor the clandestine bombings that he still has not confirmed (Philippines).
[As the military historian and former U.S. Army Col. Andrew Bacevich noted in the Washington Post after Obama began bombing Syria, “Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.” That is the fact that, by itself, renders tribalistic Westerners who obsessively harp on the violence of Muslims such obvious self-deluded jokes.]
Two recent foreign policy moves are major positive items on Obama’s legacy: normalization of relations with Cuba and agreeing to this deal with Iran. But, as he himself just proudly touted yesterday, the overall record of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate is one of violence, militarism and aggression that has left a pile of dead bodies of innocent people. That Obama feels the need (or desire) to boast about how many countries he’s bombed, and that the only mainstream criticisms of him in the Iran debate is that he is too unwilling to use more aggression and force, says a lot about Obama, but even more about U.S. political culture. And none of what it says is good.