What if Obama is just a better looking, better spoken Bush? On Obama’s War Cry Speech of December 1, 2009

The opening ode to West Point set the tone for Obama’s speech: apparently what is best about our country is our militarism. While he couched our war-mongering in nicer terms, as “prepared to stand up for our security,” the remainder of his speech indicated that he may be just as much (or more) of a war president than Bush.

Echoing the rhetoric of his predecessor, he called on the 9/11 narrative as a rallying cry.

He failed to touch on key historical points, namely that the US caused much of the current instability in the Middle East. His failure to even once mention Israel and how the US-Israel alliance perpetuates Middle-Eastern instability speaks volumes.

While he noted we are in “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” he failed to examine how permanent war has a HUGE hand in creating this crisis.

Taking liberty with facts, he waxed poetical about how “Our union was founded in resistance to opposition.” Ah, there it is, the comforting narrative that those white forefathers were an oppressed people merely seeking (religious) freedom. Never mind that these supposed resistance fighters decimated the people who were already here, committing genocide against the indigenous population.

No, according to Obama, “We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources.” What then was our occupation of this land? Did we really just seek to share turkey with the original inhabitants?

This claim is also preposterous given present day realities. We ACTIVELY seek to occupy other nations and WE DO – our military bases are all over the world. We have military in 70% of the world’s countries. Further, we claim and destroy resources on a global level, treating the world as our Wal-Mart.

Ironically, Obama claimed he is “mindful of the words of President Eisenhower,” referencing a quote about balance in relation to national spending. Apparently he is not so mindful of another famous Eisenhower quote: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.”

Instead, Obama beats the drums of war yet couches his cry in double-speak. The escalation of the war was referred to as “Afghan responsibility” while our military might was linked to “prosperity” and “diplomacy.” Referring euphemistically to our global imperialism as “a foundation for our power,” he argued we will “compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last.” Hmmm, is he referring to the fact we will likely wage as many wars, compete with the rest of the world, and kill as many innocent civilians? Is this what he means by successful competition?

In jingoism typical of such speeches, he said “And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” Apparently he has forgotten about (or chooses to ignore) the “dark cloud of tyranny” hailing down within American borders. How can a country that does not secure the human rights of its own inhabitants (of women, of non-heterosexuals, of people of color…) claim to be a light for justice for the rest of the globe?

Claiming that “more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades,” Obama revealed himself as either a master of denial or in need of some serious history lessons.

Closing with the typical claim that it’s all for the good of our nation’s future, of the children, he argued “What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren.” Really, then why are we demolishing the education system and ramping up the prison  industrial complex? Are these not more pressing issues than stamping our red, white, and blue boot on other nations?

In his closing comments, he said “We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might.” Here, he switched up the more common phrase “might makes right,” which tends to be used to critique unwarranted use of power and again echoed Bush, insinuating that we are right, we are the center of the universe, and that our military might will make the world a better place. I doubt it. But it certainly will make the world more RIGHT– more conservative, more fundamentalist, more extremist, more based on haves and have-nots… It will continue to kill in the name of security, maim and disfigure in the name of diplomacy, and decimate nations and peoples in the name of justice. Sadly, my friends, the war marches on, with Obama as lead soldier.

For a full text of the war cry, see here.

Related posts:

What if we called it “America’s war against Iraqi civilians”?

What if the USA was a democracy? (Bodies of War part 1)

What if the war was news?   (Bodies of War part 2)

What if the United States was not wrapped in camouflage?  (Bodies of War part 3)

What if the hypermasculine US phallus wasn’t raping the world? (Bodies of War part 4)

What if we woke up and smelled the war? (Bodies of War part 5)


5 thoughts on “What if Obama is just a better looking, better spoken Bush? On Obama’s War Cry Speech of December 1, 2009”

  1. Professor,
    your post title reminds me of the Daily Show playing Obama & Bush speeches side by side back on January 20th. (1)

    “We have military in 70% of the world’s countries.” Implying that we occupy the NATO countries is a bit of a stretch. Some of those other countries have less than two dozen US military personnel. I think your use of that statistic (source, please), is misleading.

    You write “the US-Israel alliance perpetuates Middle-Eastern instability”. I hope you aren’t forgetting Shiite-vs-Sunni, Iraq-vs-Iran, Iraq/Iran/Turkey-vs-Kurds, Pakistani terrorist actions in Pakistan, India & Kashmir, Saudi-vs-Yemen’s Houthi rebels (7) or Iran warning Saudi Arabia about meddling in Yemen(9), or even Egyptian-vs-Algerian football violence (5) and (8). There’s a whole lot of instability we can’t blame on the US-Israel alliance.

    You state we will make the world “more conservative, more fundamentalist, more extremist, more based on haves and have-nots”
    Professor, what if we compare 1959 and 2009, is the USA or even the world, more or less fundamentalist/conservative?
    The approaching big demographic change, is when India & China start becoming “haves”, that will be a lot more “haves”. And since more kids are reaching their 5th birthday (4), and comparing world hunger with 20 years ago (6), I think there are less “have-nots”.

    Continuing with comparisons, the percent of budget dedicated to military has gone down significantly in the past 60 years. (3) As much as we spend on our military, if it was “zero” it would not solve our budget problem.

    I agree with you that we have way too many people in jail (2), it’s embarrassing, especially when compared to other countries. Are American’s inhernently much more criminal? No. Does this huge population in jail lower US crime rates? Not really, and especially not homicide. Then does this point to a flaw in our system? Yes. However, how does a politician run on the “we need less people in jail” platform?

    Regarding “kill as many innocent civilians?” We kill way less civilians these days in warfare. We don’t carpet bomb cities anymore. This is a positive development.

    If we use history as a guide, I think the complete quick withdraw of American troops would be a mistake. The North and South Korea, started with basically same people, same resouces…which one is a better place to live? East and West German…which prospered? Even if we include Vietnam, I would say that the million refugees known as Boat People, would suggest that maybe Vietnam was not a happy place after we left.

    I am curious, how do you believe we should make Afghanistan better? Or do you believe as the wealthiest nation on earth, we should say “sorry, we’ll just leave now, good luck with the warlords, hope the Taliban doesn’t come back”?

    Well, thank for writing, looks like my footnotes are kinda jumbled, and I’m sure my comma use is bad.

    (1) http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-january-20-2009/changefest–09—obama-s-inaugural-speech









    1. Wow, Jon, thanks for your thorough, thought-provoking comment and for all the links.

      As for your point that “There’s a whole lot of instability we can’t blame on the US-Israel alliance,” I agree. We can also blame the British Empire and imperialism generally, as well as racism, sexism, religious persecution, etc. the “1st/3rd World” split, the practices of the IMF and the world bank, the US and other countries weapon happy stance (which has supplied many other countries with weapons, nukes), etc. Lots of the problems you mention go way, way back, but most, I would argue, start with the us/them mentality entailed in the colonialist project.

      As to your question, “if we compare 1959 and 2009, is the USA or even the world, more or less fundamentalist/conservative?” Well, I’m not up on 1959, but I would say more – especially in regards to religion.

      I think we are comparing “haves” differently — I meant “haves” in terms of the ultra rich, the top 1% who have more wealth than they could possibly spend in a lifetime yet, for the most part, don’t share.

      As for the claim that “Continuing with comparisons, the percent of budget dedicated to military has gone down significantly in the past 60 years. (3)” – well, I have heard differently, from the film Why We Fight to studies from Human Rights Watch, Anti-war.com, Iraq War Deaths, etc.

      As for “However, how does a politician run on the “we need less people in jail” platform?” I think this could be done very successfully. Angela Davis for president!

      As for “We don’t carpet bomb cities anymore” and your claim we kill less civilians, I am not so sure. We use white phosphorous, daisy cutter bombs, we leave areas polluted with depleted uranium that will harm civilians far into future generations, etc. I think the number of civilians killed is DRASTICALLY downplayed and ignored by the MSM.

      As for how we could make Afghanistan better, I don’t think this is our place. I think we should be trying to make the world better generally, for all people, but not by imposing our ideas of what’s right or by stamping our military footprint throughout the globe.

      I do have some suggestions though, some practical, some utopian.
      On the more realistic, practical side we can:
      1. Stop supporting the war machine — this means we can’t support Dem’s or Repub’s — both of these corporate based, empire parties feed the war machine 2. Educate ourselves about Afghanistan and work with global women’s networks to support women’s equality and inclusion such as: RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan), Women for Women International, Human Rights Watch, etc. See also the article “Afghanistatn Wars and Women’s Rights” at Dissident Voice and the Rethinking Afghanistan War blog. RAWA has a list of specific ways to help at their website.
      3. Work to mitigate stereotypical, Western views of Afghani women as “backwards.” We need to be careful of employing our Westernized view of the world on other peoples.

      On the utopian side:
      1. Eradicate patriarchy. A system based on male dominance cannot bring a life that is truly better for women — not here in the US, and not in Afghanistan either.
      2. Recognize that globalization is a nice term for imperialism. Decry US attempts to economically and otherwise control the globe. Become familiar with “the ten signs of fascism” and question whether a country that is itself not a democracy has any right to try to impose its brand of democracy on other parts of the globe.
      3. Re-think world religions so that women are as valued as men. Re-think education as a global right. Educate a girl, change a life. Educate girls, change the world.
      4. Realize that war is not the answer, not ever. Anything war can do, peace can do better.

      In order for the Taliban to lose power some of these more utopian aspects need to be addressed – the Taliban are based in patriarchal, fundamentalist views that maintain MEN deserve to own women. True freedom cannot be achieved under patriarchy, nor under religious systems that value certain people over others (whether male over female or heterosexual over homosexual). Another issue is world poverty (largely caused by corporations and US imperialism). Poverty breeds problems, and especially for women.

      In all of this, education is big step forward: educating ourselves, our friends and families, our leaders. But, also, working to fund education globally RATHER than funding war. Alas, as my bumper sticker questions, “Why is there always enough money for war, but not for education?”

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment so thoroughly!

  2. “I am curious, how do you believe we should make Afghanistan better? Or do you believe as the wealthiest nation on earth, we should say “sorry, we’ll just leave now, good luck with the warlords, hope the Taliban doesn’t come back”?”

    Firstly, who is “we”?

    Secondly… there is nothing that the US (or UK) can do to “make Afghanistan better”. Just as there is nothing that a rapist can do to make his victim’s life any better (except perhaps kill himself). “We” have no business being in Afghanistan at all.

  3. Oh, and awesome post on Obama. Wake up and smell the napalm, people: he is not your saviour. Few things irritate me more than the adulation given to Obama by so many people who i would not have expected to buy into such hype at all. Like Blair in the UK before him, he is the new boss, same as the old boss.

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