Obama’s legacy: nice, kind imperialism?

Obama's statement not surprisingly was basically endorsed by Huffington Post.
Obama’s statement not surprisingly was basically endorsed by Huffington Post.

Recently, the Chinese Communist Party publication, Global Times, rated Obama positively in a “fair review” of his legacy. They mentioned Obama’s farewell speech, saying that  Obama’s accomplishments included “economic performance…better than other major Western nations” with an increased GDP per capita, lower unemployment rate, and a long bull run for the US stock market. The piece then declared that one of Obama’s legacies is Obamacare, devoting himself to “Affordable Care Act and gun control” which they almost implied was worth the effort. They even said that Obama was not as “bold” as Bush, relatively “cautious in military actions,” saying that he was the most “peaceful US president compared with several of his immediate predecessors,” not leading the US into any new wars, and not taking a leading role in the war in Libya. Even on the East Asia/Pacific pivot, which was “unsuccessful” in their view, they said that Obama was “not radical in the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy,” which prevented ruptures in Sino-US relations, adding that there are “mechanisms for bilateral exchanges” between the US and China, with ties between the two complicated but “mature” at the same time. They ended by saying that “Obama is a nice person, calm and not too extreme” but that he failed “show his special leadership,” and criticized Donald Trump without naming him, calling Trump a person who “wants to be different in every category…and is obsessed with seeking the limelight.” In terms of criticisms of Obama’s presidency, the piece only mentioned that the US had “made the Syrian civil war last for five years, which led to the emergence of the Islamic State and the refugee crisis” leading to a weakening of “Washington’s control over the Middle East” and that “the gap in income distribution is growing larger,” with US citizens “feeling little sense of accomplishment.” Since such revisionist thought does not accurately describe the Obama legacy, it is important to set the record straight.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Obama was an imperialist of the highest order. Clearly the Global Times was writing a hit piece on Trump, who I wrote about two days ago, which should surprise no one since Trump is spewing BS on the issues of pharmaceuticals, the F-35 program, hacking, and others. For these, he may be partially right in one aspect but wants to push his image as a “tough” president, including supporting Taiwan to the hilt. As for Obama, the idea that he was a “nice person, calm and not too extreme” (or a “Woodrow Wilson“) is invalidated by his imperialist declaration last month that Russia was a “smaller” and “weaker” country that didn’t “produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms,” but still said it could pose a serious threat, somehow (that doesn’t even make sense!). I guess this is no surprise for a president who loves Reagan and has an administration that promotes the Russian hacking conspiracy, not a “kinder” imperialist by any stretch. With Trump administration coming in it is clearly time for armed self-defense.

Let’s go through the “accomplishments” and “legacy” of Obama and his administration one by one:

  1. Voting AGAINST UN resolutions condemning glorification of Nazi and denial of Nazi war crimes in 2014 and 2016, supported by 115 member states in 2014 and 131 in 2016, a resolution proposed by the Russian Federation since 2006 reportedly. Last year, the US claimed that the resolution had an “overly narrow scope and politicized nature” and said it called for “unacceptable limits on the fundamental freedom of expression,” showing that the murderous empire values speech of Nazis (and white supremacists) above all others.
  2. As Nick Turse wrote in an investigative piece earlier this month, US special forces can be found in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, partnering with “unsavory types” (you know who they are). Specifically, he noted that 70,000 special forces under Special Operations Command (SOCOM). across the world, are engaged in “shadow wars against terror groups…[along with] activities…outside acknowledged conflict zones…every single day” with the most elite forces of the US, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets “deployed to 138 countries in 2016” which is the highest Obama’s presidency, typifying “what has become the…murky twilight between war and peace.”
  3. Continuing the imperialist war in Afghanistan, with 8,400 troops STILL stationed there, with no end in sight under Trump.
  4. Increase in the use of private mercenaries under Obama’s watch, who may be threatened by Trump. However, Erik Prince of Blackwater backed Trump, with the latter with an even more direct connection manifested in the fact that the brother of his Secretary of Education pick, Betsy DeVos, is Erik Prince! As of August 2016, the “number of U.S. service members in Afghanistan is dwarfed by the nearly 29,000 Department of Defense private contractors [private mercenaries in actuality] in the country, outnumbering American troops three to one” which is a decrease from the past, but the use of them is a still major part of imperial operations. Even The Atlantic bellowed that “America is waging a war largely via contractors, and U.S. combat forces would be impotent without them. If this trend continues, we might see 80 or 90 percent of the force contracted in future wars” with such contracts as big business for those cashing in.
  5. As Cornel West recently argued, “today we are on the edge of an abyss…[in] the most powerful empire in the history of the world” leading to a “postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world” where Obama’s reign contributed to the “nightmare of Donald Trump.” West also argued that Obama followed the advice of his “neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street,” that no Wall Street executives went to jail (doing too little too late), he continued drone strikes killing civilians, he replied to Black Lives Matter with “with words about the difficult plight of police officers” and in response to Israeli aggression he funded the Israeli army with many more millions of dollars, along with calling black youth in Baltimore “criminals and thugs” (so did Jay Carney). West also reminds us that “Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones,” “labor insurgencies” in the Northwest overlooked, demonizing “truth-tellers” (mainly whistleblowers), creating a market-based healthcare policy which “provide[d] healthcare for over 25 million citizens, even as another 20 million are still uncovered.” West finally added that Obama was a “deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch” which prefigures “Trump’s barbaric plans.”
  6. As Glen Ford wrote last month, “looking at the number from a different angle, Obama released only one out of every two thousand of the nation’s 2.3 million prison inmates, the largest incarcerated population in the world, both in raw numbers and in the proportion of U.S. society living behind bars. In other words, Obama’s clemencies, like all other presidents’, are statistically meaningless and morally and politically distractive. But, of course, that’s what Obama’s good at – distracting people.”
  7. As Jon Reynolds argued, “…when President Obama oversaw the brutal force-feeding of untried prisoners at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they [pro-Obama liberals and progressives] said nothing. When President Obama’s mass-deportations of undocumented immigrants in the US outpaced deportations under his predecessor, they stayed silent…when President Obama spent his first term in office outspending his predecessor on raids against legal marijuana dispensaries , his supporters had little to say…When President Obama extended the US military occupation of Afghanistan until 2024, anti-war Democrats under George W. Bush were nowhere to be found. When President Obama fabricated a reason to bomb oil-rich Libya in 2011, and then just a year later, reauthorized the US invasion of Iraq, they were voiceless…when it came to light that President Obama had a “kill list” and US citizens were on it, and were being killed, all without due process — again, barely a peep. When Obama granted legal immunity to telecom companies that had conducted invasive spying during the George W. Bush years, when he extended the Patriot Act, when he prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act…when he expanded the NSA’s surveillance programs, and…green-lit indefinite detention of US citizens without trial, Democrats remained complacent. From January 2009 to the end of 2016, there has been a near-virtual silence from those identifying as Democrats against a variety of violations committed under President Obama, violations which were widely protested during the George W. Bush years…under a Democratic president, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was continued, US boots hit the ground in Syria and Iraq, US bombs fell in Libya, US drones terrorized the skies over Pakistan and Yemen, America’s nuclear arsenal was upgraded, and highly provocative military drills were conducted along the borders ofRussia and China. Eight years of warmongeringObama, like Bush before him…offered support to regimes like Saudi Arabia , which are notorious for oppressing homosexuals and women…from 2008 to 2014, one-quarter of a million people were deported for nonviolent drug offenses, often due to low-level marijuana possession. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way, shape, or form entitled to the moral high ground over the equally horrific opposing party is a beyond ridiculous assertion without any basis in reality…Kill lists, defense of torture, mass surveillance, US citizens being picked off by drone missiles, the continued buildup of a vast empire [all under Obama].”
  8. Expanded Bush’s drone program to create a “kill list” where he would select people to be killed in the world every Tuesday, what is called “terror Tuesday” by some, killed by the secretive JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), engaging in what are arguably war crimes.
  9. Hopes that race relations between whites and blacks would improve were quickly dashed, the bourgeois “middle class” continued to be “hollowed” out, income inequality reached its highest level since 1928, more Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico than those who enter the US, partisan divides are harsher than ever, ordinary Americans were skeptical of the government’s economic policies toward the populace (and toward national policies in general), serious concerns about privacy rose, anger at the established media remained, and pessimism in the US is rising as noted in a recent Pew Research report.
  10. “Normalizing” relations with Cuba and Iran, which allowed US capitalists to salivate even as restrictions remained on these “new” markets ready for Western capitalist exploitation of the highest order.
  11. The auto bailout in 2008 and 2009, begun by Bush and continued by Obama, which “saved” the auto industry but didn’t change ANYTHING about it, even though the industry was temporarily nationalized and new jobs could have been created, maybe even in renewable energy, who knows.
  12. The refusal to prosecute ANY Bush administration officials for torture.
  13. The failure to close the hellish Guantanamo Prison Camp, which still has 55 detainees, where people are routinely tortured and numerous people have died from hunger strikes, or the huge naval base there. The base at Guantanamo which occupies over 5,880,483 square feet, with 1,362 buildings, according to the US military’s count. Furthermore, the base, which occupies 45 square miles, according to the official site, ensures, “regional security” in the Caribbean, supports U.S. Navy, and Coast Guard ships, while helping the wicked Department of Homeland (In)Security “care” for migrants, and helping “control the flow” of undocumented immigrants into the United States. The “official history” of the base which boasts about their “self-sufficiency” doesn’t mention, context for seizure of Gitmo or the US military’s three imperialist occupations of Cuba (1898-1902, 1906-1909, 1917-1922), with the land taken “during the [imperialist] Spanish-American war of 1898, then codified in the Cuban-American treaty of 1903″ which was signed during a time when the sovereignty of Cuba was limited.
  14. The New York Post says Obama’s legacy is a “devastated Democratic Party,” an assessment which is actually pretty accurate to be honest.
  15. The presence of 5,000 troops in Iraq, one of the wars that Global Times forgets for some reason.
  16. As noted by NBC News, “the president’s policy moves…firmly aligned Latinos with the Democrats…[while] white, economically-insecure American increasingly drifted from his party [to Trump], despite Obama policies aimed at them.”
  17. Even a pro-Obama tepid liberal in Truthout argued that under Obama, “as with the torturers, none of the Wall Street thieves who eviscerated the economy to their great profit were ever prosecuted for any of their crimes…[he] all but ignor[ed]…Standing Rock as he champions fracking and tar sands oil pipelines…[he] champions the middle class while peddling the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership [along with other “free trade” treaties and he] sold more weapons to the world than any administration since World War II.”
  18. Beyond an increase in national debt, he escalated US presence in Syria with special forces rushing to the country, backing “moderate” Syrian rebels who are actually terrorists and “rebels” in Ukraine to fight “Russian aggression.”
  19. Pushing for a war or some sort of conflict with Russia, an idea advocated by US intelligence agencies, Democrats, the US media, and numerous others like Joy Ann Reid, and so on
  20. As James Bovard argued, Obama “became judge, jury, and executioner” when it came to drone bombing, the US is bombing, as of now, “seven foreign nations” (Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan). rebels backed by the Pentagon and those backed by the CIA have battled each other. Beyond this, the opinion notes that during the US bombing in Libya in 2011, the US joined “the French and British assault on the Libyan government” and toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, while “federal agencies slammed the door on routine requests – especially from the media” with numerous FOIA denials, and the TSA “became far more intrusive and abusive” to say the least.
  21. As further strengthened the repressive capacities of the state” including increasing its propaganda abilities, to “curtail speech and control information” [which I talked about here] connecting to its legacy of “increased surveillance of the public to the use of the espionage act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers.” Baraka said that the “latte left” and liberal allies have fully collaborated with this, with efforts to “weaken the incoming administration by attempting to split it from its Republican legislative arm,” with Trumpism becoming “a useful tool for enforcing neoliberal ideological consensus,” leading to the reappearance of the phenomenon of neo-fascism, nothing new to Black America who which has “suffered from the racist, arrogant assaults of this criminal state to maintain the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project.”
  22. Said “no” to Israel recently, but has consistently supported Israel through its numerous bombing campaigns over the years. Trump aims to be even more Zionist than Obama, which is apparently possible.
  23. Leading on the “environmental movement” and bourgeois environmental groups so they would “await” his rejection of Keystone XL which happened, but also didn’t since he approved the southern half in 2012 (when he boasted about more pipelines) and “disapproved” of the northern half but actually didn’t since oil-by-rail continues onward as noted on Wrong Kind of Green and elsewhere.
  24. Continuing the imperialist assault on states like Zimbabwe, Russia, Eritrea, the DPRK, and others full force, without stop. Trump will likely increase this with his “Trumpian diplomacy” with intervention in the African continent on the rise.
  25. Using states ranging from Saudi Arabia (including voting against that 9/11 bill) to Qatar as imperial proxies to carry about US policies of mass murder over the years.
  26. As I noted in my post in July, President Obama “extended the imperial war and occupation in Afghanistan beyond his time in office, leaving more troops “than planned” with the empire as “strong as ever” despite “growing US debt from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I also pointed out the lack of domestic opposition to imperial adventures, with most peace groups as bourgeois, noted that there have been “US-backed coups in Ukraine (2014), Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), Maldives (2012), and Brazil (2016), coupled with drone strikes across the Muslim world from secretive drone bases, shadowy attack teams (JSOC, CIA, and so on), private mercenaries-for-hire, and authoritarian imperial proxy states such as Saudi Arabia.” Additionally I noted that “Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Cuba, Syria, Belarus, and the DPRK are under fierce overt and covert imperial assault coupled with imperial destabilization efforts” along with saying that “the United States certainly has colonies like the “empires of old” manifested in its inhabited territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa (supposedly “self-governing” since 1967), Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands” along with the “mainstay of the murderous empire comes in the hundreds of military bases, numbering 500 at minimum (most of which the military calls “installations” [11]), scattered across the world.” This shows that quotes like these are true.

There’s no doubt that even if Obama was “better” than Bush in some regards (which I seriously doubt), he was a bloody imperialist. There are numerous aspects I didn’t touch on here, especially in the realm of social policy, but I wanted to avoid praise here as I’m trying to be critical in this area rather than having the idea of “balance” whatever that entails. I could go on and give other aspects of Obama’s legacy. However, rather than continuing the list I’d like to show some charts:

cxgszapxaaamzry
As noted from a revised map I put on twitter.
Countries the US is currently bombing as I noted on twitter
Countries the US is currently bombing as I noted on twitter
sofmap1_large
This map displays, as noted by Nick Turse, “the locations of 132 of those countries” with 129 (blue) supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command and 3 (red) — Syria, Yemen and Somalia — “were derived from open-source information.”
U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 138 nations in 2016. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year.
As Nick Turse notes in the original caption for this image, “Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year.”
sofmap3baltic_large
Original caption by Nick Turse: “a closer look at the areas of the “undeclared campaigns in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine” mentioned by retired Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. The one in red was derived from open-source information.”
US bases near Iran, as of 2015
US bases near Iran, as of 2015, an image usually used to demonstrate US imperial power in the region
US bases near China as of Feb. 2016
US bases near China as of Feb. 2016
US bombs dropped in 2016 in the Middle East (and part of central Asia), most of which were in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan.
US bombs dropped in 2016 in the Middle East (and part of central Asia), most of which were in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan. Data here comes from the CFR, but also uses this map and bombs from this anti-US poster in Iran. A US flag was put on each bomb, with some countries, like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, representing the exact number of bombs, while others (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria) are just representational
libya-2016-bombs-dropped
A graphic I made, putting into place each bomb individually (taking about an hour at least) showing ALL the bombs dropped on Libya in 2016, using this map as a basis, with data from CFR.
us-bombs-dropped-in-2015-300x184
After making all those maps, I’m a bit tired, so here is a chart of US bombings in 2015 also from the CFR. Part of the reason I didn’t make a map also is that Iraq & Syria are put into one category.

I don’t really have anything else right now since I’m tired and this post is going out later today. But, comments are welcome.

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3 thoughts on “Obama’s legacy: nice, kind imperialism?

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