Oh, how great Barack Obama’s second inaugural address was. He mentioned climate change! And how he’s going to do something about it! And laid out a full-throated liberal, progressive agenda for his second term! And yes, it was great he name-dropped Stonewall and Selma, seminal moments in American history.
But allow me this: Obama uttered a major falsehood, something that progressives should call him out on, and yet not many did (though Salon’s Natasha Lennard was on it). And the falsehood speaks to a highly important legacy that Obama will be leaving behind: the institutionalization of a permanent war footing so the U.S. can wreak havoc around the globe in the name of fightin’ terror.
“A decade of war is now ending,” said Obama, in his inaugural address.
But you see, Obama is not ending any war. It is true that he pulled out of Iraq, though that was only after the Iraqi government rebuffed his requests for U.S. troops to stay past 2012. And it is true that plans are being formulated for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan--but it is also true that the Obama administration has held negotiations over having U.S. troops occupy that country for longer.
But the brazen lie that Obama has ended a decade of war comes in full view when you look at his record on drones. On the same day as Obama was inaugurated, his outgoing Secretary of Defense was much more truthful on this issue: “The reality is [drones are] going to be a continuing tool of national defense in the future.”
These drone strikes have hit Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, and have indeed waged war on both militants there and the civilian population.
To end, I’ll allow Esquire magazine’s Tom Junod, who has written extensively on the human costs of Obama’s drone program, to rip Obama’s war claim to shreds:
It is a war that continues even as the president said that our wars are ending. It is a war that persists even as he said that “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.” It is a war that endures and flourishes even as the president said that Americans are “heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends.”
I am not speaking, of course, of the wars that the president spoke of yesterday, in his second inaugural speech -- the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he spoke of without naming. I am speaking of the war that is currently being prosecuted in countries where we are not supposed to be at war, like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. I am speaking of the perpetual war, the shadow war, the invisible war against invisible enemies, the war whose latest manifestation came just two days ago, when three men identified as militants, names unknown, were killed by an American drone. I am speaking of the war that the president did not speak about, even though his Administration has never called it anything but a war, and it has killed thousands of people.