Obama's fifth year: a World War 4 Report scorecard

World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. On the day of his 2014 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:

Drone wars drone on
Malala Yousafzai got it just right when she told Obama to his face in October that "drone attacks are fueling terrorism." The GWOT strategy of "decapitating" al-Qaeda has only backfired. The "core al-Qaeda"—a little cell around Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri—may be diminished, but meanwhile al-Qaeda has morphed into a to a global movement with a leaderless structure. Hardly a coincidence that its most effective franchises are in Iraq and Yemen, where US aerial terror has provided a limitless pool of recruits. Drone terror also contributed to the rise of a Taliban movement in Pakistan. In a rather too weak statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern last year that the drone strikes do not comply with international law. We say hell no, and trying to fight al-Qaeda this way is like trying to sober up by drinking martinis. Negative

Torture at Gitmo —again
This one is really painful. Even if Obama didn't fulfill his campaign pledge to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, we thought at least we could say that there was no longer torture going on there. With the force-feeding of hunger strikers at the facility last year, we can no longer say that. There has been slow progress in clearing the camp by repatriating the inmates or relocating them to third countries. But 46 men have been identified as slated for indefinite detention. And we have concerns about the human rights situation that will be faced by the repatriated in places like Saudi Arabia. In his State of the Union address, Obama yet again pledged to close the facility—but it is sure starting to ring hollow. Negative

Gitmo kangaroo court hops along
It's bad enough that the shameful military tribunal of the 9-11 defendants continues at Gitmo (and we acknowledge that the administration's original plan to try them in the civil courts was blocked by Republican intransigence). But resisting legal challenges seeking to declassify "interrogation" techniques used against the defendants compounds this dangerous precedent for international (in)justice. Negative

Blank check for Israeli apartheid
Way back in 2009, no less a voice than Amnesty International called for cutting US military aid to Israel. The UN and EU have called Israel's ongoing West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement plans illegal. Yet US aid to Israel last year was an undiminished $3 billion. (NBC, April 14) And the US blank check (both financial and moral) doesn't just affect the West Bank, because Israel is building apartheid both sides of the Green Line. The State of the Union address pays lip service to Palestinian statehood, but explicitly calls Israel a "Jewish state"—which, as Hanan Ashrawi rightly notes, is inherently racist, betraying the rights of the 5 million Palestinian refugees (by the UN's count) and institutionalizing the second-class status of Israel's Arab citizens. (Or perhaps third-class, after Mizrahi Jews.) Obama's trip to Israel last March of course prompted Palestinian protests. Now, Kerry's  "framework proposal" for renewed "peace" (sic) talks is sparking new protests—as it is said to endorse Israeli demands for recognition of a "Jewish state." The fact that Obama is demonized by the right as anti-Israel is just part of the pathology. Negative 

Blank check for Egypt's dictatorship (almost)
Obama called off planned joint military exercises with Egypt after last July's military ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, but refused to label the ousting a "coup" or cut off the year's $1.3 billion in aid. Now the White House has apparently finagled language from Congress in the new spending bill to negate the law barring coup-installed regimes from receiving US aid. (Daily Beast, Jan. 13) Now, we want to make clear that we support Egypt's progressive and secular opposition, not Morsi's Islamists. But they also oppose Washington's blank check to the new dictatorship. Negative

Empty bluster on Syria
The appointment of "humanitarian interventionist" Samantha Power as UN ambassador was met with glee both by advocates of US military action in Syria and by the perverse Bashar Assad fan club on the "left"—because it seemed to vindicate their conspiracy theories. Actually, we see no evidence that Obama wants to intervene in Syria. Assad called his bluff by crossing the chemical "red line," prompting a few days of empty bluster—followed by a punt to Congress, which we noted was actually a face-saving way to avoid military action. Since then, the White House has kept flipping the script—most recently, cutting aid to the secular-led Free Syrian Army, and tilting to Islamist militias because they were thought a better bet to beat back al-Qaeda. This shows that contrary to the "leftist" conspiracy theory, Washington views al-Qaeda as the real enemy in Syria, not Assad. And while the debate has focused on military action, nobody is heeding Amnesty International's urgent call for the US (and other powers) to take in more Syrian refugees and provide material aid for the camps where some 2 million (by the UN's count) languish in cold and privation. Whatever you make of the ethics of US military intervention in Syria, this is a hopeless muddle of cynicism. Negative

'Peace' in Afghanistan? No thanks
As in Iraq three years ago, the US "withdrawal" from Afghanistan (boasted in the State of the Union speech) is a.) making a virtue of necessity, as the client government would not approve a "security agreement" allowing a permanent Pentagon force; and b.) fictional, as the number of military "advisors" left after the December 2014 pseudo-deadline could be as high as 10,000. (ANI, Jan. 28) Meanwhile, civilian casualties and even war crimes in Afghanistan (by all sides) rose last year. This hardly sounds to us like "peace." Not surprisingly, the US and Karzai are now apparently considering a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban—which would be a "peace" no less shameful than the current war, selling out Afghanistan's women, as well as Shi'ites and (yes) secularists. This again recalls the old anarchist slogan: "Neither your war nor your peace!" Negative

Human rights monitoring for Western Sahara
Gotta give credit where it is due. The people of Morocco-occupied Western Sahara have been so long betrayed by the Great Powers that any small sign of encouragement seems significant. The US continues to back the reactionary monarchy in Rabat, and deny recognition to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. But last year, Washington cancelled joint military maneuvers with Morocco rather than back down from its decision to support an initiative to broaden the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara to include human rights monitoring. Positive

New Cold War with China gets scary
Obama's open defiance of China's newly announced "air defense identification zone" (ADIZ) around the disputed East China Sea islands is no less reckless brinkmanship than Beijing's own declaration of the zone. We don't believe either side wants an actual shooting war, but if they keep pushing things like this, they might just get it anyway—to potentially unthinkable consequences. China's aspirations to military superpower status are indicative of its own internal contradictions, but it takes two to tango. US military encirclement and containment strategies must be opposed. Negative

US troops back to Philippines
The Obama administration is working out an agreement with the Philippines that will allow the US to again deploy more troops and weapons in the archipelago nation—another part of the "pivot to Asia." This is especially dangerous as the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao remains intractable. Quagmire beckons. Negative

Trans-Pacific Partnership
Militarization and "free trade" always march hand-in-hand, and it is no coincidence that the "privot to Asia" comes just as Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Right now, he is trying to get undemocratic "fast track" authority to grease its way through Congress—alluded to in the State of the Union as "bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped 'Made in the USA.'" Of course, the TPP would actually sell US workers down the river by further faciliating export of jobs to cheap-labor countries, dramatically weaken environmental protections, and further consolidate corporate control over our lives in countless ways—from criminalizing strikes and boycotts, to crushing smaller producers though draconian "intellectual property rights" provisions. Big Negative

Blocking progress on drug policy reform
When the Organization of American States met in Guatemala in June, John Kerry and Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske opposed Latin leaders' courageous initiative to reconsider the utterly counter-productive US-led "war on drugs." Negative

NSA Big Brother
Frankly, last year's revelations of the NSA collecting phone call data on millions of US citizens came as no great surprise. Why else would the NSA be building a vast underground city filled with super-computers in the Utah desert? File under "duh." Nonetheless, we're glad it is finally making headlines. Negative, of course.

No Miranda rights for bombing suspect?
Boston bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev was belatedly read his Miranda rights—but only after he'd been questioned by the Justice Department's "High-Value Interrogation Group," an Orwellian-named Obama creation. (HuffPost, April 22) This, along with the police-state measures during the manhunt, constitutes a chilling precedent. Negative

Hey, fuck the polar bears
A US appeals court last year upheld the listing of polar bears as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act, rejecting a challenge by environmental groups that sought to have them classified "endangered" due to the threat to their habitat from climate change. The ruling came after the Obama administration decided to keep a policy issued during the Bush presidency that prevents use of the ESA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions to protect polar bears. Negative

Positives: 1
Neutrals: 0
Negatives: 15
Overall score: 93.3% Negative

Last year's score was 89.5% Negative