Barack Obama: He’s Not Your Friend, But What If He Was?

Imagine you have a friend — let’s call him Barry — who seems like a swell guy, a real class act. He’s got a beautiful wife, two kids, gives blood, volunteers at the local health clinic on the weekends, even gives a pretty good motivational speech from time to time. Sure, he slaughters the occasional family here, wipes out a funeral procession there, but unlike some cold-blooded murderer, some monster, he does not revel in the senseless violence. No, he laments every death caused by his regrettable but escalating savagery. Did I mention he plays a pretty mean game of basketball?

Now hold up, most people with functioning brain stems and consciences might say. Nice guy though he may be, the whole killing of innocent men, women and children thing? Yeah, not cool. Kind of a buzz kill, actually. Bit of a deal breaker.

Unless you’re talking about Barack Obama. Then complicity in murder — and the extrajudicial killing of not just precious blonde-haired, blue-eyed American citizens, but hundreds of Afghans and Pakistanis — becomes an unfortunate, maybe even a tragic thing, but not bad in a I’m-not-going-to-vote-and-campaign-for-you sort of way.

Dennis Kucinich, for instance, while denouncing the president’s decision to send another 33,000 troops to Afghanistan and questioning the constitutionality of the conflict, confessed to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that while the surge would undoubtedly be a waste of lives and resources, “You know what? To me this isn’t even about the personality of the president, whom I admire.” Speaking later to Esquire on why he was voting for a healthcare bill he had ripped to shreds on policy grounds just days before, Kucinich cited a “a higher responsibility” to “my president and his presidency.” The Ohio congressman went on to say that a victory on healthcare was essential so that the power of the president would not be “weakened,” arguing that with passage the “president will have a stronger hand in domestic and international affairs, and that will be good for the country.” Nowhere in his 2,300-word remarks on the need to boost the president’s popularity did he mention any of the ongoing wars and military occupations for which his friend Obama is responsible.

At the signing of the bill, he not just figuratively but, with a smile on his face, literally embraced the president.

Michael Moore, meanwhile, in a letter to Obama on the eve of his decision to expand the Afghan war declared that with that one move he would “destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics.” But at the same time, and after the president had already expanded the war soon after taking office by nearly 20,000 troops, Moore implored Obama to “listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking,” adding: “We the people still love you.”

After the decision to expand the war, which brings weekly tales of the atrocities that always accompany military occupations and counter-insurgency operations, there probably are a few more Obamaphiles turned disillusioned cynics — but Moore isn’t one of them. “You’re such a good guy, Mr. President,” he writes in a more recent correspondence.

The tradeoff seems to be this: in exchange for a president that can speak in complete sentences and not embarrass Americans in front of Western European audiences, and who is willing to throw a few more crumbs to the middle and lower classes, liberals will accept a little murder abroad. Oh, there might be an open letter or two, but few are willing to call the current occupant of the White House what he is — a war criminal with a million dollar smile — instead going to great lengths to defend this administration, working earnestly to support Obama’s agenda even when it’s entirely at odds with their own stated views.

This isn’t something new, by the way. When the U.S. military was killing Vietnamese by the tens of thousands in the 1960s, many rank-and-file Democrats and the whole of the liberal establishment were willing to put up with a little senseless murder abroad in exchange for Lyndon Johnson’s promise of a “Great Society” at home. Even after pressure from the antiwar movement forced LBJ to give up his reelection bid, the Democratic nominee in 1968 nonetheless was Hubert Humphrey, a bland pro-war liberal. And given the orgiastic glee with which today’s liberals and progressives greeted the passing of a healthcare bill even proponents are lukewarm about, can you imagine how much murder they’d put up with in return for something like Medicare?

Of course, this probably isn’t the trade-off the president’s liberal supporters imagine they’re making, and I don’t doubt that people like Moore and Kucinich are sincere in their opposition to the Afghan war, if misguided in how to end it. But their view of the president as a man, or rather what they imagine him to be, colors — distorts — their views of his policies, resulting in some embarrassing attempts to excuse Obama, The Man We Thought We Voted For, for the policies enacted by Obama, The Man You Actually Got. Sadly, all too many liberals and progressives remain captivated by the former Obama ™, the persona they’ve been marketed these last couple years: the philosopher-king who probably right this moment is sitting by a fireplace, taking notes and sipping Earl Grey while absorbed in his reading of Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, though, it’s a shame it doesn’t really exist.

But this isn’t to say Barack Obama, personally, would strangle to death an innocent Afghan villager, either, or that he begins his day by biting the head off of a cute little kitten (that was always more Cheney’s style). If he bumped into you in the hallway he’d probably say “sorry,” and if he was making a pot of coffee he might even ask if anyone else wants some. But what Obama’s defenders fail to realize is that while he might seemingly be an all-around nice guy who loves his children, someone you could have a beer with if that’s your metric, even nice guys are capable of real evil when they need not experience firsthand the consequences of their decisions. The killing will always be done by somebody else, not the great statesmen — outside of Iraq, that is — which is why the study of history can often feel like nothing more than the study of one war after another, each one more barbarous than the one before it. When it’s someone else’s life on the line, not your own, even the most righteous and well-intentioned will be more inclined to risk it.

And while Obama might seem like a nice, smart guy who tucks his kids in and gives them a kiss on the forehead good night, remember that because of his decisions there are Pakistani and Afghan fathers who will never get to do the same. And remember too that Obama chose to escalate the war on terror within mere days of taking office, when he could have gone ahead and eaten that kitty during a live press conference with Angela Merkel and still have seen a bump in his poll numbers, signing off on a drone strike in Pakistan that killed 18 people before even moving his orthopedic chair into the Oval Office. As documented by the New America Foundation, Obama has continued the bombing ever, dramatically increasing the use of drones in Pakistan — a country, mind you, with which the U.S. is not officially at war — killing more than 500 people since taking office, likely many more, a third of them civilians. Weeks later Obama sent another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, bringing his escalation of that war since taking office to roughly 50,000 troops and at least that many private contractors.

If you’re into peace, love and understanding, well, Barack Obama just isn’t that into you. It’s long past time to stop making excuses for the man and break those last emotional connections. It’s also a good time to remember all those things you were told when you were little about how killing people is very bad, and that, you know, you really shouldn’t do it; at least to my mind, that lesson applies even to powerful people — taking the life of another not becoming excusable because a simple majority of eligible voters who managed to get off work and bothered to head out to the polls voted into office one of the two corporate stooges allowed on the ballot, or because killing a few foreigners is an unfortunate but vital step to securing a second term.

Getting on my soapbox: Once you come to grasp the basic moral truth that murder does not become acceptable simply because a majority of registered voters lucky enough to be born in the world’s most powerful country sanction it, nor is one’s complicity in it lessened by the fact that some 18 year old kid pulls the trigger for you — that politician’s deserve to be held to the same standard of accountability to which you’d hold a casual acquaintance — then it becomes a lot harder to maintain the fiction that Obama is not stained with blood shed by his wars. But then I haven’t been reading Daily Kos lately.

Charles Davis is a journalist based in Washington, DC. More of his work may be found on his Web site. Read other articles by Charles.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. mary said on March 29th, 2010 at 9:12am #

    This is what it’s all costing, financially that is –

  2. Rehmat said on March 29th, 2010 at 11:06am #

    Barack Obama’s AF-Pak policy is his administration’s last desparate surge to create, like the Russians earlier, a situation for so-called “an honorable retreat”. The military analysts in the US and abroad have already predicted the defeat of US-Nato adventure for the supply of Caspian Sea offshore oil to Haifa refinery and heroin for the Russian Jewish mafia.

    Washington humiliated militarily, is seeking some “moderate” Taliban leadership to provide atmosphere for the “honorable” withdrawal of US forces while allowing US firms to build and oil pipeline from Turkmenistan to Gwadar (Pakistan) and sufficient supply of heroin.

    In a recent interview with FARS News Agency, Gen. Hamid Gul blamed the US for creating and training different extremist and terrorist groups to destablize the region especially Islamic Iran: “The US intelligence agencies pursued just one goal by forming Rigi’s group which was provoking unrests and instability in Iran”. Referring to the plots and attempts of the US and the Zionist-controlled European governments against Islamic Iran, Gen. Hamid Gul reiterated that the very aim of them is to weaken Iran’s independence and impair the relations between Tehran and Islamabad. He advised the Pakistan government to elude the plots hatched by the US under the Israel Lobby’s pressure to disintegerate Pakistan in order to corner Islamic Iran.

  3. bozh said on March 29th, 2010 at 12:53pm #

    May be kuchinich sees it as i do: WH-congress-judiciary being just like safe managers.
    And like safeway managers, uniting when in trouble; especially when safeway owners tell them to do so.
    So a managing team whether in hockey, baseball, or country is just a hired manager; the owners being in command.

    Those who own country, rule that country and no amount of revolution wld ever change that. Ab 98% of US is owned by very interdependent-socialistic 1 or 2, 0r 3% of americans.
    The other 98% of americans have been told that they are fiercely independent. And 3,4,5 very interdependently socialist indiv’ls can easily rule over even thousands fiercely independent people;many of which resent and hate one another to boot.
    Of course, turning them against one another and for probably 10 k yrs, being of great assistance to ‘nobility’.
    Or as a wise person pointed out: Those who control the value of symbols wld always rule over u.
    Money, eg, is such a symbol. This symbol symbolizes that more money one has, the greater value that person has. Another symbol is the label “people”; which now stands for them being unruly, vicious, primitive, canibalistic, uneducated, lazy, unmotivated, drugged, etc.
    Precondition to that evaluation being schooling that teaches children to evaluate his/her human value according the money s/he wld make or being of the people.
    Churches, eg, teach their slaves to be with us but not of us!
    Actually, value of money is backed by universal trust in it; it is actually the wealth and also the wealth before money had been invented in anatolia ca 3.5 k yrs ago that stood as a symbol of human worth.
    Another of our most precious symbols, the trust, has also been usurped over millennia. It now means that one is nerdish or idiotic for permitting a car, house, drug salesman to cheat u. They will accuse u of being trusting; the cheater having the right to swindle u if u are that ‘dumb’.
    These criminal minds have indeed wrought a vicious world for us and all in order to treat us as less valued people.

    A person owning 100 pigs, 200 geese, 10 horses, a range was much more worth than a person who only had 3 pigs, etc.

    It mattered not that the fact had been [nor have people perceived it; tho some have] that u can amass more than another only if u deceive and cheat others.
    So, this hasn’t changed.
    So what is a prez in comparison to this iniquity that had caused and is causing now all ills on interpersonal and int’l levels?
    And things can and will get much worse! Unless people see reality as it is and not as holliwood-bolliwood, pols, ‘religions’, ‘educators’, advertisers present it to our helpless children. So, guard ur children wisely! tnx

  4. SilverMoon said on March 29th, 2010 at 6:08pm #

    What I fear that most is that all of this senseless violence will ultimately come around and back to America. Maybe, 9/11 was the first sign of this coming. What goes around comes around.

  5. Rehmat said on March 29th, 2010 at 7:43pm #

    9/11 was not the blow-black – but to create frenzy for the colonization of Muslim countries rich in oil/gas and possible threat to Israeli supramacy.

    “Truth Jihad” – Book Review

  6. Max Shields said on March 30th, 2010 at 6:14am #

    Can we get a simple instant run-off vote and end this madness?

  7. Don Hawkins said on March 30th, 2010 at 9:01am #

    I know they could just come out and tell us ignorance is strength no this and that just tell us get it over with.