Friday, May 24, 2013

The President's National Security Speech was Full of Contradictions

Yesterday, President Obama gave his national security speech. He outlined a flowery justification for drone attacks. Certainly, the President wants to do what is necessary to keep the American people safe. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity.  However, his speech was full of contradictory messages. He essentially tried to advocate both sides of the issues.

On one hand, he emphasized his commitment to Constitutional principles. On the other hand, he essentially argued that the U.S. has the right to execute Americans abroad without due process, without evidence or trial. During that segment of the speech, he focused on Anwar Al-Awlaki and conveniently failed to provide a rationale for killing the other three Americans. The President talked about working with Congress to increase oversight of the drone program. However, that is no guarantee that anything will actually happen. We see what happened with GITMO.

In one breath, he complained about the U.S. waging perpetual war. He further mentioned that the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution ("AUMF") should be refined or repealed. In next breath, despite acknowledging that Al Qaeda is defeated, he proceeded to justify waging and supporting perpetual war around the world in countries such as Libya, Syria, Yemen, Mali and Somalia. Since President Obama acknowledges that Al Qaeda has been defeated in Afghanistan, why are U.S. troops still there?!?! Why do the American people have to wait until the end of 2014 for the troops to leave.

Moreover, the President talked about defeating Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Yet, by aiding so-called rebels in Libya and Syria, the Administration has inadvertently aided Al Qaeda affiliates. They have filled the power void created by America supporting coups in those countries.

One minute, Obama expressed concern about civilian casualties. The next moment, he justified civilian casualties by claiming that more civilians would die if he did nothing. By the way, no one is arguing that the President should do nothing.

President Obama discussed addressing the root causes of extremism. Yet, his drone policy is breeding future generations of terrorists. Every time an American drone bombs innocent women, children and men, it serves a recruiting tool for terrorists. It is hard to convince people that you are not waging war against Islam when you bomb villages and kill babies and women. It is hard to convince people that you are not waging war against Islam when you waging wars in Muslim countries around the world.

In addition, if the U.S. wants to truly stop "the well spring of extremism", America must fundamentally change its foreign policy. The U.S. can no longer afford to continue to provide unconditional support to the rogue State of Israel. Furthermore, the U.S. cannot profess to love democracy as long as it continues to support some of the most repressive regimes in the so-called Middle East. Such regimes violently oppress secular opposition and promote religious fananticism.

At the end of his speech, the President talked about the need to close Guantanamo Bay. He explained how detaining suspects indefinitely without charge is contrary to American values. Nonetheless, here we are into his second term and GITMO remains open. I understand that Congress has failed to act. However, what is stopping the President from taking more action to close Guantanamo Bay?

In sum, the President's speech was not an announcement of a major policy shift. For the most part, it was simply a justification for continuing to use drones around the world. Despite all of eloquent rhetoric, Obama's drone policy is George Bush's drone policy on steroids.

Finally, in a time when many so-called progressives have become sycophants and Obama worshippers, it was refreshing to see Code Pink protest. Ironically, during the Bush years, many progressive commended Code Pink for holding similar protests against the Bush Administration. Today, many of those "progressives" are now condemning Code Pink for protesting against Obama. That is hypocrisy. Principles are more important than personalities. No politician, including President Barack Obama, deserves unconditional support.

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