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Thursday, January 17, 2013

King: I Have a Dream Obama: I Have a Drone

King: I Have a Dream Obama: I Have a Drone

By Norman Solomon
January 17, 2012

A simple twist of fate has set President Obama’s second Inaugural
Address for January 21, the same day as the Martin Luther King Jr.
national holiday.

Obama made no mention of King during the Inauguration four years
ago but since then, in word and deed, the president has done much
to distinguish himself from the man who said, “I have a dream.”

After his speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
in August 1963, King went on to take great risks as a passionate
advocate for peace.

After his Inaugural speech in January 2009, Obama has pursued
policies that epitomize King’s grim warning in 1967:

“When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with
guided missiles and misguided men.”

But Obama has not ignored King’s anti-war legacy. On the contrary,
the president has gone out of his way to distort and belittle it.

In his eleventh month as president while escalating the U.S. war
effort in Afghanistan, a process that tripled the American troop
levels there, Obama traveled to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace

In his speech, he cast aspersions on the peace advocacy of another
Nobel Peace laureate: Martin Luther King Jr.

The president struck a respectful tone as he whetted the rhetorical
knife before twisting.

“I know there’s nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive, in
the creed and lives of Gandhi and King,” he said, just before swiftly
implying that those two advocates of nonviolent direct action were,
in fact, passive and naive.

“I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats
to the American people,” Obama added.

Moments later, he was straining to justify American warfare: past,
present, future.

“To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call
to cynicism, it is a recognition of history; the imperfections
of man and the limits of reason,” Obama said.

“I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries
there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter
what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion
of America, the world’s sole military superpower.”

Then came the jingo pitch:

“Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The
United States of America has helped underwrite global security
for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the
strength of our arms.”

Crowing about the moral virtues of making war while accepting
a peace prize might seem a bit odd, but Obama’s rhetoric was
in sync with a key dictum from Orwell:

“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present
controls the past.”

Laboring to denigrate King’s anti-war past while boasting about Uncle
Sam’s past (albeit acknowledging “mistakes,” a classic retrospective
euphemism for carnage from the vantage point of perpetrators),
Obama marshaled his oratory to foreshadow and justify the killing yet
to come under his authority.

Two weeks before the start of Obama’s second term, the British daily
The Guardian noted that, “U.S. use of drones has soared during
Obama’s time in office, with the White House authorizing attacks in
at least four countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It
is estimated that the CIA and the U.S. military have undertaken more
than 300 drone strikes and killed about 2,500 people.”

The newspaper reported that a former member of Obama’s,
“counter-terrorism group” during the 2008 campaign, Michael
Boyle, says the White House is now understating the number
of civilian deaths due to the drone strikes, with loosened
standards for when and where to attack:

“The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques
or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at
the social fabric of the regions where they occur. No one
really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these
distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands.”

Although Obama criticized the Bush-era, “war on terror” several
years ago, Boyle points out, President Obama, “has been just as
ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor.”

Boyle’s assessment, consistent with the conclusions of many other
policy analysts, found the Obama administration’s use of drones is,
“encouraging a new arms race that will empower current and future
rivals and lay the foundations for an international system that is
increasingly violent.”

In recent weeks, more than 50,000 Americans have signed a
petition to Ban Weaponized Drones from the World.

The petition says that, “weaponized drones are no more
acceptable than land mines, cluster bombs or chemical

It calls for President Obama, “to abandon the use of weaponized vdrones, and to abandon his ‘kill list’ program regardless of the
technology employed.”

Count on lofty rhetoric from the Inaugural podium.

The spirit of Dr. King will be elsewhere.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding
director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He co-chairs the
Healthcare Not Warfare campaign organized by Progressive
Democrats of America. His books include “War Made Easy: How
Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” and the related
film War Made Easy. He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

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