by Janet Weil
Here’s one CODEPINK activist’s annotation of portions of President Obama’s request for a new Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). You can watch Obama’s speech in full here and read the proposed AUMF text here.
Obama: “My fellow Americans – tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”
CODEPINK: “Degrade and destroy” we’ve heard that before re the Taliban and Al-Qaeda...
These “friends and allies” include the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the repressive government of Turkey, which has carried out decades-long campaigns of terror against the Kurdish people.
Obama: “As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people.”
CP: The most important causes of Americans’ untimely deaths are heart disease and cancer, followed by suicide and road accidents. Death by terrorist attacks doesn’t even make the top 50. Our security would be improved by better healthcare, including mental health care and suicide prevention; reduced income inequality; and safer roads -- all underfunded because about 60% of the discretionary federal budget goes to the military.
Obama: “Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
CP: “Took out” is a term worthy of a Mafia don, not the president -- not to mention thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including hundreds of children.
Under the so-called “War on Terror,” the US government has also targeted al Qaeda’s affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, destabilized Yemen until the national government fell, assassinated 16-year-old US citizen Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, and created chaos in Somalia.
Obama: “We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year.”
CP: The removal of US troops was partially due to leaks by whistleblower Chelsea Manning which revealed atrocities committed by US troops and mercenaries in Iraq. As of February, 2015, 3,000 US troops have returned to Iraq and 10,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan.
Obama: “Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer. Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge.”
CP: Safer from WHAT? Disastrous effects of climate change, poverty, disease, police brutality, racism? US “military and counterterrorism professionals” have implemented indefinite detention without due process at Guantanamo Bay, sent billions of tax dollars and weapons to repressive regimes around the world, and served the surveillance state.
Obama: “ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
CP: The United States has exacerbated this conflict by failing to vet the “revolutionaries” and supporting armed militants in Syria, affiliates of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Obama: “In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality.”
CP: Including by the US military and its allies - especially from January 1991 onward!
Obama: “They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists – Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.”
CP: While important to recognize ISIL’s crimes, we must also recognize that these tactics are used regularly by our ally Saudi Arabia, and many other regimes and groups around the world.
Obama: “I know many Americans are concerned about these threats.”
CP: Thanks to drumbeat coverage in mainstream media.
Obama: “Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances.”
CP: Actually, the US military has been attacking ISIL targets since August 2014. See one such bombing here.
Obama: Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq.
CP: These airstrikes are unseen in the mainstream media. How have they been “successful”?
Obama: American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days.
Obama: “Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.”
CP: No geographical limitations in this AUMF continue "the world is a battlefield” orientation of former VP Dick “The Dark Side” Cheney.
Obama: “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.
This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
CP: Many wedding parties and funerals in the Middle East have been bombed under the catch-all of “no safe haven.”
Obama: Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition.
CP: Let’s hope that those members of the “Syrian opposition” don’t decide to join ISIL with the weapons that we’ve “ramped up” for them, paid for by US taxpayers.
Obama: “...we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into – and out of – the Middle East.”
CP: “Foreign fighters” - not including US troops!
Obama: “And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.”
CP: All non-military means could and should be focused on. Representatives Lee and Honda have introduced a plan to do just that.
Obama: “I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL.”
CP: Until now, Obama has been ignoring Congress’ role in debating and declaring war. And thanks for that 2001 AUMF, President Bush -- it’s retained in this new AUMF!
Obama: “But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger. Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL.”
CP: The atrocities committed by ISIL fighters are horrific. However, it is a propaganda ploy to use the metaphor of disease for enemies, as Obama does here.
Obama: “And any time we take military action, there are risks involved – especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions.”
CP: You can see the numbers of US dead in Iraq and Afghanistan here. Those counts don’t include the veterans who have committed suicide after returning home.
Obama: “But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
CP: Except when they are special ops…
Obama: “This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
CP: Successful, that is, in terms of US objectives including not triggering another “Blackhawk Down” incident. Not so “successful” for the Yemenis and Somalis.
Obama: “Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades.”
CP: Fracked oil and natural gas are poisoning water and land in rural communities. Oil from the Alberta tar sands is bursting pipelines and making train transport much more dangerous. Carbon dioxide is at a climate-wrecking 400 parts per million.
Obama: “It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.”
CP: Tell that to the families yearning to be reunited with their loved ones, cleared of any charges but still detained at Guantanamo Bay Prison. Tell that to the mothers in Fallujah and elsewhere giving birth to deformed children due to the toxic dust from weapons coated with Depleted Uranium.
Obama: “America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden.”
CP: Combining American exceptionalism with a new version of the White Man’s Burden.”
Obama: “And our own safety – our own security – depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for – timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.”
CP: As the protagonist said in a Hemingway novel about the aftermath of World War I, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
Obama: “May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.”
CP: Time to listen to “God On Our Side”!
Janet Weil is a CODEPINK member and staffer, and a military family member, who lives in the SF Bay Area.