By leading anti-war activist David Swanson, author of Day Break and War Is A Lie, who runs the websites DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org (formerly AfterDowningStreet.org)
When Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on June 9, 2008, the 35 had been selected from drafts of nearly twice that many articles.
President Obama has accumulated his own massive list of high crimes and misdemeanors that were unavailable for Bush’s list (thing’s like openly murdering U.S. citizens, launching massive drone wars, selectively and abusively prosecuting numerous whistleblowers as spies, holding Bradley Manning naked in isolation, attacking Libya without so much as bothering to lie to Congress, etc.).
Nonetheless, it is instructive to review the 35 Bush articles in the Obama age. It quickly becomes apparent that Obama has either exactly duplicated or closely paralleled most of the 35. Here’s what I mean:
Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements.
Click the link to read the article introduced against Bush. Obama campaigned against this abuse and has routinely engaged in it as president. Worse, he has established the policy of silently relying on previous Bush or Obama signing statements rather than restating his intention to violate laws each time such intention is relevant to a bill he is signing.
Creating Secret Laws.
Obama similarly uses Department of Justice arguments to reverse the commonly understood meaning of laws (bombing Libya is neither war nor hostilities, for example). And he similarly uses arguments that are kept away from public sight. While the United Nations, foreign nations, and human rights groups have questioned the legality of drone strikes, Obama has not provided his legal defense or even felt obliged to make any assertion as to which victims were intended and which were “collateral damage.” This week the ACLU sued for release of such information. In addition, Obama announced in 2009 that he would review all of Bush’s signing statements and decide which ones to keep as law and which to discard, but the public has never been told the outcome of that review.
Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives.
Obama did this from day one, proclaimed it in front of the Constitution in the National Archives, formalized it in an executive order, signed it into law this past New Year’s Eve, and expanded the practice at Bagram.
Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Obama has continued each abuse detailed here and added to them, including through his use of the military to keep journalists away from the BP oil disaster and in an effort to break a strike at the ports of the Pacific Northwest.
Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to “Black Sites” Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture.
Obama has publicly claimed the power to continue this practice, in fact continued this practice, maintained black sites despite announcing an end to them, and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.
Obama has continued this practice and added to it the murdering of children, refusing to say that Abdel-Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki was not intentionally targeted or that he, Obama, does not have the legal power to murder U.S. children. Non-U.S. children continue to die in significant numbers from drone strikes and by other means (including intentional targeting from helicopter) as part of Obama’s escalated war on Afghanistan.
Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy.
Obama has claimed the power to torture, worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor, and continued to allow torture. He has also pressured other nations, including Spain, to drop prosecutorial investigations of U.S. crimes of torture.
Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment.
Obama has continued these practices and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.
Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens.
Obama has continued these practices and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor and guilty corporations.
Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government.
Obama has continued these practices. In his most recent State of the Union speech he said, “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible . . . if Iran changes course.” When Iran recently took down a U.S. drone, Obama simply asked that it be returned.
Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors.
Obama’s Pentagon is no more audited or accountable, nor the routine scandals involving misplaced millions or billions of dollars less frequent. No-bid contracts have increased. Privatization has increased. Secrecy has increased. The use of Special Forces in secret non-war wars has spread to more nations. The permanent stationing of U.S. troops has spread to more nations. Secret agencies, including the CIA, have been given larger war-making roles. And Obama continued the war on Iraq long beyond the date by which he had promised to end it, and continues to maintain thousands of mercenaries in Iraq, and to use drones in the skies of Iraq. He has also worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.
Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq.
Obama’s insistence on continuing this practice not just beyond 2008 but beyond 2011, combined with the Iraqi government’s refusal to agree, resulted in Obama’s decision to comply with the Bush-Maliki treaty to end the war on Iraq by this past New Year’s Eve.
Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare.
The details have to be changed to apply this article to Obama. The changes are not in Obama’s favor. Obama met in secret with the CEOs of health insurance corporations and pursued a vision of healthcare reform that they had secretly influenced. In so doing, he misled Congress and the American people. He is quite open, in contrast, about his willingness to slash Medicare, as well as Medicaid.
Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency.
The victims of Katrina have still not been compensated, nor the environmental and urban damage undone. Instead the BP oil disaster has been added. Obama intentionally misled the Congress and the public, downplaying the quantity of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. He allowed a clean-up operation that was nothing of the sort. No real clean-up or recovery is planned. Nor have the corporations or their supposed regulators been held accountable.
Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change.
Obama’s approach to systematically undermining efforts to address global climate change has included blocking possible global agreements at meetings in Denmark and South Africa, while promoting “clean coal,” “natural gas,” and “safe fracking.”
Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The exposing of a secret agent has not been repeated, but retribution against whistleblowers has been taken to new heights with more prosecutions under the Espionage Act than by all previous presidents combined.
Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001.
We’re still waiting.
Now, we come to the launching of the war on Iraq:
Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression.
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States.
Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.
Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.
Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.
Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation’s Natural Resources.
Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries.
It was too late for Obama to exactly duplicate these offenses, as the war against Iraq was already underway. But President Obama has embraced the lies that launched that war. He claimed in 2010 that the war on Iraq had been launched in order to disarm that nation. In the news around the world on the day of Obama’s most recent State of the Union speech was the anger among Iraqis at the failure of the United States to hold anyone seriously accountable for the 2005 massacre in Haditha. The story was a useful reminder of how the operations of the U.S. military over the past decade have fueled hostility toward our nation. President Obama began his speech by claiming the opposite, asserting that the war on Iraq has made us safer and “more respected around the world.” Obama has repeatedly used such rhetoric to pivot to promotion of his escalated war in Afghanistan or other military operations. Similarly, President Obama misled the nation about the purpose and nature of a war on Libya that has left Libya, like Iraq, in worse shape, and which has left Constitutional war powers in tatters, as the Congress declared itself opposed to the war and the war continued. Meanwhile misleading propaganda about Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other nations continues to emerge from the Obama administration. The Director of National Intelligence has just claimed that Iran is a threat to the United States. While the Iraq War may have “ended,” the Authorization for the Use of Military Force has been kept in place allowing Obama to use it as a legal argument for other military operations and abuses of civil rights. Also emerging with ever greater frankness from the Obama White House and Pentagon, including from the President, is the claim of presidential prerogative to launch military attacks on sovereign nations, involving deaths to both militants and civilians, without any consideration of Congress, the Constitution, the War Powers Resolution, the United Nations or its Charter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or any other law.
There is no quantitative way to measure whether Obama’s additions to the presidential powers accumulated by Bush and Bush’s predecessors equals or exceeds those added by Bush. But measured against the pre-Bush baseline, or against the written rule of law, Obama’s power abuses far outstrip Bush’s, while in the category of immediate death count Bush retains a significant lead.
Would Romney or Gingrich be even worse? That’s quite likely. If we continue to self-censor on these matters, Obama Part II will also be significantly worse. A popular movement against these abuses could make any White House occupant better than the current one, even if it’s the same individual. Remember what Howard Zinn taught: It’s not who is sitting in the White House; it’s who is doing the sit-ins.
David Swanson is a frequent voice at The 4th Media.