Obama Vs. Bradley Manning
Two simultaneous things happened on August 20 that, though very different, were in some way related. While a military judge in Ft. Meade, Maryland, sentenced Bradley Manning to a 35 year prison term for sharing classified documents with WikiLeaks which exposed US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan and embarrassed the US government, Obama’s Justice Department asked a federal judge in San Francisco on that same day to grant procedural immunity to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell for illegally waging a war on Iraq. The case was filed in March 2013, by Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, alleging that the planning and waging of the war constituted a “crime of aggression” against Iraq, a legal argument that was used by the Nuremberg Tribunal to convict Nazi war criminals after World War II. The DOJ claimed that in planning and waging the Iraq War, Bush and key members of his Administration were “acting within the legitimate scope of their employment” and are thus immune from suit,” That same “employment” argument was made by Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg trials and duly rejected by the Tribunal.
The arrest, detention without charges for three years, mostly in solitary confinement, accompanied with abuse which according to Amnesty International amounted to torture, and finally, sentencing of Bradley Manning, which was harsher than what most violent rapists, first degree murderers and child molesters get, was conducted by the same Obama Administration that, in a historic and ironic twist, argued, on that very same day, for the immunity for the perpetrators of the war crimes that Bradley Manning had exposed. The picture this dual act on that single day paints of this Bush-Cheney-Obama Administration could not have been more telling. War crimes deserved no arrest or trial. Their revelation to the public did.
On the day before the 2008 presidential elections, in his last campaign rally in North Carolina, candidate Obama stood in front of thousands of his supporters and said: “We are now one day away from changing this country”. Why did he say that? Why did his campaign make “change” its motto? Why so much emphasis on change? Because that’s what people wanted. It wasn’t hard to figure that out. Campaigns do polling, all the time. In fact, even Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain, promised change. But, who better than the first African American President to deliver it?
But, change was being implemented, and implemented religiously, even before Obama’s presidency – just not the change people had in mind or hoped for. In fact, what people wanted and what actually was being implemented behind the scenes could not have been more divergent and discordant. The change US policies were going through represented nothing qualitatively new and was merely the acceleration of its old strategy of world domination, brought about by a new sense of invincibility and freedom, after the breakup of Soviet Union, which opened the door for the US imperialism to new and less restricted militarism. The corporate government saw an opportunity to ramp up its drive to expand and strengthen its world hegemony, including and especially in oil rich and strategically and militarily important region of Middle East and North Africa, which not only represented an opportunity for huge profits for US oil companies and control of its flow and access, but also as a base for expanding US military dominance in the direction of China and Russia. The new strategy for aggressively forging ahead unchallenged in the coming 21st century was best described before the turn of the Century in a document aptly titled “Strategy For New American Century” which basically boiled down to removing, with all means necessary, any obstacle in the way of such expanded and total hegemony. Iraq was soon identified as a target, not in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but as early as in 1998.
The Bush presidency, not so much provided the opportunity or resolve, but rather coincided with the empire’s new aggressive plans for the world. Iraq, as I mentioned, was already in the empire’s plans when Bush became president. The change was officially on the way. And, it wasn’t just in new and aggressive militarism which came to be ironically called “war on terror” – ironically because it was itself nothing but a strategy of terror – but also an aggressive plan for curbing civil liberties and stifling dissent. The upheavals of the 40 years ago were not to be tolerated in this new era of new wars and new take backs from working people.
The change being implemented at the top also included an aggressive drive for deregulation and empowerment of large multinational corporations and a new push against the working class and their unions. Conditions were set for new massive profits on the back of working people in the US and beyond.
The change was well on its way and had been in the works for years when Obama stood on that last day before elections and promised “change”. But, the change he had in mind and was committed to could not have been more different from the change people applauding his every word were hoping to see with his presidency.
When he took office, he wasn’t just given the keys to the White House, but also the plans for continuing the policies of the empire. All those billionaires, company CEO’s, large shareholders and money managers who gave to his campaign – more than they gave to McCain and Romney – expected a return on their political investment. He could talk of change and new direction and could distance himself from the policies of Bush all he wanted when campaigning, but, like his predecessor and like other politicians and all the other hired hands of the military industrial complex, from the employees of National Security Agency (NSA) to the Pentagon officials, he had a job to do. Those who expected a different direction from Obama didn’t understand this and were therefore surprised by the glaring continuity of policy from one president to another: from bailing out banks and insurance companies to suing farmers on behalf of Monsanto, from drone attacks and continuing the wars and occupations to disregard for climate change, from implementing laws curbing civil liberties to punishing whistle blowers and threatening and bullying journalists.
It’s like expecting better odds from jackpot machines after a new boss has been hired to manage the casino. The boss’ job is to maximize profit for the casino. Though he’s officially also the boss of the team of security guards, they all collectively have the job of ensuring smooth and profitable operation of the casino for the owners. Bankers that defrauded home buyers and small investors are part owners of the casino. The laws of the casino don’t apply to them. Nor do they apply to other owners like Monsanto for poisoning the food people eat or to gas companies for poisoning the water or to oil companies that profit from wars. The laws also don’t apply to other administrators and managers of the casino who served the interests of the owners before being replaced by new administrators, in smoothly and well run elections. And so will the crimes of the new administrators be similarly forgiven by the next team that takes the White House. What is however not tolerated and will be dealt with severely are crimes against the interests of the owners of the casino or their fraudulent and criminal operation.
I would have expected nothing less or different from that military court in Ft. Meade, MD, and nothing less from the Justice Department that argued on behalf of Bush and his team and nothing less than the effort they have made to get Snowden to pay for his “treason”.