Killer Obama, Dr. King, and the Triple Evils

warmonger and peacemakerby Paul Street
Dr. Martin Luther King's ideas on the nature of peace and social justice bear no resemblance to those of the current occupant of the White House, yet another in a long line of presidential killers on an industrial scale. MLK, the social democrat, would have recoiled in horror at the trillions lavished on Wall Street Obama's first year in office, believing as he did that “the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”
Killer Obama, Dr. King, and the Triple Evils
by Paul Street
“He’s a Killer”
“Peace prize? He's a killer."
Thus spoke a young Pashtun man to an Al Jazeera English reporter on December 10, 2009 - the day that Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize.
"Obama,” the man added, “has only brought war to our country.”
The man spoke from the village of Armal, where a crowd of 100 gathered around the bodies of 12 people, one family from a single home. The 12 were killed, witnesses reported, by U.S. Special Forces during a late night raid.
"Why are they giving Obama a peace medal?" another village resident asked. "He claims to want to bring security to us but he brings only death. Death to him"
Al Jazeera went to the Afghan village of Bola Boluk, where a U.S. bombing butchered dozens of civilians last spring. "He doesn't deserve the award," a young woman said. "He bombed us and left us with nothing, not even a home"[1]
Obama blasted her village last May. In the first week of that month, the president’s air-strikes killed more than 140 civilians in Bola Boluk, located in western Afghanistan's Farah Province. Ninety-three of the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were children. Just 22 were males 18 years or older. As the New York Times reported:
"In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on Wednesday to outraged members of the Afghan Parliament," The New York Times reported, "the governor of Farah Province...said that as many as 130 civilians had been killed." According to one Afghan legislator and eyewitness, "the villagers bought two tractor trailers full of pieces of human bodies to his office to prove the casualties that had occurred. Everyone at the governor's cried, watching that shocking scene."[2]
“Ninety-three of the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were children.”
The response of Obama’s Pentagon to this horrific incident - one among many such mass U.S. aerial killings in Afghanistan since October 2001 - was to absurdly blame the civilian deaths on "Taliban grenades." While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed deep "regret" about the loss of innocent life, neither she nor Obama would issue an apology or acknowledge U.S. responsibility for the blasting apart of civilian bodies in Farah Province. The United States, Obama has said both as a U.S. Senator and as president, should not apologize for its "mistakes" (that is, its crimes). This, he explains, is because the United States is “an enormous force for good in the world,” one that prefers to “look forward,” not “backwards.”[3]
Executing Children
The child-killing Obama administration struck again, execution-style, at the end of last year in the Ghazi Khan village in Narang district of the eastern province of Kunar in Afghanistan. As the Times of London reported on December 31st, 2009:
“American-led troops were accused yesterday of dragging innocent children from their beds and shooting them during a night raid that left ten people dead.”
“Afghan government investigators said that eight schoolchildren were killed, all but one of them from the same family. Locals said that some victims were handcuffed before being killed.”
“…In a telephone interview last night, the headmaster [of the local school] said that the victims were asleep in three rooms when the troops arrived. ‘Seven students were in one room,’ said Rahman Jan Ehsas. ‘A student and one guest were in another room, a guest room, and a farmer was asleep with his wife in a third building.’ “
“‘First the foreign troops entered the guest room and shot two of them. Then they entered another room and handcuffed the seven students. Then they killed them. Abdul Khaliq [the farmer] heard shooting and came outside. When they saw him they shot him as well. He was outside. That’s why his wife wasn’t killed.’”
“A local elder, Jan Mohammed, said that three boys were killed in one room and five were handcuffed before they were shot. ‘I saw their school books covered in blood,’ he said.”
“The investigation found that eight of the victims were aged from 11 to 17. The guest was a shepherd boy, 12, called Samar Gul, the headmaster said. He said that six of the students were at high school and two were at primary school. He said that all the students were his nephews.”[4]
“Death From Above”
Killer Obama doesn’t wreak lethal havoc just in Afghanistan. Obama has embraced and expanded the mass-murderous drone program conducted by the CIA and the private contractor formerly known as Blackwater (Xe Services). "During his first nine and a half months in office," the journalist Jane Mayer noted last October, "he has authorized as many CIA aerial attacks in Pakistan as George W. Bush did in his final three years in office ...So far this year, various estimates suggest, the CIA attacks have killed between three hundred and twenty-six and five hundred and thirty-eight people."[5]
According to the CIA counter-insurgency consultant David Kilcullen, most of the people being killed this way are innocent bystanders. In a New York Times Op-Ed titled "Death From Above, Outrage Down Below" last May, Kilcullen, a former advisor to General David Patraeus, explained that the United States' remote-controlled drones deliver what he calls "a hit rate of two percent on 98 percent collateral" - meaning that two militants are killed for every 98 civilians slaughtered. This is "not moral," Kilcullen says. Yes, "not moral.”[6]
“Obama Personally Issued the Order”
Last December 17, eight days before Yemen resident Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blast Northwest Flight 253 out of the sky on the way to Detroit, Yemen opposition forces testified that many dozens of civilians, including a large number of children, were killed in US air-raids in the southeast section of their country. The fighters reported the deaths of 63 people, 28 of whom were children, in the province of Abyan.[7]
The killing command came direct from the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. As the left commentator Barry Grey noted:
"US President Barack Obama personally issued the order for US air strikes in Yemen last Thursday which killed scores of civilians, including women and children."
"US warplanes used cruise missiles against alleged Al Qaeda camps in the Abyan village of al Maajala, some 480 kilometers southeast of the capital Sana'a, and in the Arhab district, 60 kilometers to the northeast of Sana'a. The US strikes were apparently coordinated with the US-backed dictatorship of Yemen President Ali Abdallah Saleh..."
ABC World News reported that U.S. warplanes had been involved in the attacks. "White House officials tell ABC News," reporter Brian Rose said, "the orders for the US military to attack the suspected Al Qaeda sites in Yemen on Thursday came directly from the Oval Office."
ABC also noted that Obama called Saleh after the slaughterer to "congratulate" him on the attacks.[8] The Nobel-honored peacemaker Obama told Yemen's ruler that the operation "confirms Yemen's resolve in confronting the danger of terrorism represented by al Qaeda for Yemen and the world.”[9]
Obama v. Dr. King
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 81 years old on January 15, 2010. He would certainly have been horrified by the imperial death-dealings of the nation’s first black president. The ever-more left and radical King, we should recall, provoked the ire of the American establishment and his more moderate supporters by daring in New York City’s Riverside Church on the night of April 4 1967 (exactly one year before his assassination or execution[10] in Memphis) – to call out the United States’ government on its viciously racist and capitalist militarism, which, he said, “inject[s] poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane,… sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged.” As Vincent Harding wrote in his 1996 book Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, “King poured out his soul [at Riverside], pleading with his nation to come to its sense, accusing his government of being ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,’ calling America to stand with, not against, the revolutions of the poor.” Further:
“… King saw the larger context. He had already declared in other places that his ‘beloved country’ was ‘engaged in a war that seeks to turn the clock of history back and perpetuate white colonialism.’ Underlying this backwardness, he said, was America’s refusal to recognize that ‘the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.’ Now in all of his speeches, King’s voice was heard calling for what he described as ‘a revolution of values’ in the United States, a struggle to free ourselves from ‘the triple evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.’ Without such revolutionary transformation, King said, people of good will in America would end up protesting [their] nation’s new Vietnams all over the world, including Central America.” [11]
“Dr. King would certainly have been horrified by the imperial death-dealings of the nation’s first black president.”
Dr. King was driven towards open opposition to American militarism in part by his confrontation with photographic evidence in Ramparts magazine of the effects of U.S. napalm-bombing on Vietnamese children in January of 1966.[12] We need not wonder how he would have responded to the Obama administration’s record of child-butchering murder and mayhem in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen (not to mention Iraq and Somalia). He would have been sickened almost beyond words.
The irony of Obama is that the former community organizer turned politician and president thanks in part to the efforts of the Civil Rights movement has embraced and advance two of Dr. King’s “triple evils.” The “business liberal” Barack Hoover Obama [13] has outdone his predecessors when it comes to serving the interests of (and transferring public wealth to) the Wall Street financial elite, who set new fundraising records to put him in the White House. He has escalated the level of U.S. imperial violence in South Asia, “inject[ing yet more of the] poisonous drug of hate into [the] veins” of the Muslim world as he refuses to admit that his nation’s longstanding petro-colonialism and Superpower terrorism provokes the Islamic counter-terrorism he seeks to rally the nation and world against (and which he uses to justify continuation of the Bush administration’s assault on civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad). He has passed a record new Pentagon budget while tens of millions of Americans are pushed into economic destitution by his bankrollers’ profits system. This comes in cold and audacious defiance of Dr. King’s warning at Riverside: “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death"
His Promise to White America
What about racism, the third part of King’s evil triplet? While Obama’s election was arguably a victory over white racial prejudice at one obvious level, it has reinforced the majority white belief that racism no longer poses any significant barrier to black advancement and equality in what candidate Obama called “this magical place” (the U.S.). Obama has not lifted a finger or taken one serious risk to challenge that grossly inaccurate belief or to address the specific forms of deepening combined race and class oppression being experienced by tens of millions of working-, lower-, and middle- class black Americans and other minorities. As Glen Ford noted early in the presidential sweepstakes, Obama’s success in winning Caucasian votes was highly contingent on a “relentlessly” sent message to white America: that “a vote for Barack Obama, an Obama presidency, would signal the beginning of the end of black-specific agitation, that it would take race discourse off of the table. Barack Obama,” Ford explained, “does not carry [black peoples’] burden, in addition to other burdens. He in fact promises to lift white-people-as-a-whole’s burden, the burden of having to listen to these very specific and historical black complaints, to deal with the legacies of slavery. That is his promise to them.”[14]
“Killing is Personal” (On the Content of His Character)
In dealing with Obama’s presidential evil(s), we should not be racially dazzled or (alternately) shamed into thinking there's something inappropriate about criticizing the first black president from the left.[15] Dr. King dreamed of a day when we judge people by the “content of their character, not the color of their skin.” One year into the Obama presidency, what some of us on the left in Chicago (including black Chicago) and elsewhere knew about the content of Obama's character – that he was a deeply conservative, and heavily narcissistic and elitist friend and agent of Empire and Inequality, Inc. – has become ever more evident to America and the world.
I sometimes hear liberals say that the president's Left critics (me included) have a strange personal animus and bias against Obama the individual. The charge is false on the whole. Most of those critics place (I do) their take on Obama within a deeper and broader critique of corporate-managed fake democracy and of the related politics, institutions, and ideologies of Empire, capitalism, corporate rule, eco-cide, white supremacy, bureaucratism, candidate-centered and party politics, and sexism. [16]
At the same time, it’s silly to think that there must be no personal tone in left criticism of Barack Obama. As Mike Gravel said at an antiwar rally in Washington DC a couple Saturdays ago (after leading a chant saying, "Hey Obama What do You Say, How Many Kids Did you kill today?"), "killing is personal."
Yes, it is. Just ask the people of Armal, Bola Boluk, Ghazi Kan, Maajala, to name just some among the many Muslim and non-Caucasian locales that have felt the bloody “personal” touch of Obama the killer and Nobel Peace president in 2009.
There is something of a false dichotomy between having (a) a structural and institutional critique and (b) a personal and moral critique. We can and probably should (as George Orwell suggested in a remarkable 1940 essay on Charles Dickens)[17] have both in my opinion.
Toward “A Radical Redistribution of Economic and Political Power”
Of course, some “liberals” say that Killer Obama the supposed “reform president” is “doing the best he can” given the terrible entrenched culture of military and corporate power in Washington." Well, the nation’s political capital is captive to a hideous and corrupt big money and imperial culture; no doubt about that. But there are two big problems with this “defense” of the new chief imperial crime boss.
First, the comforting, self-pacifying notion that Obama - a president who often goes farther than required to appease corporate and military masters - really wants to transform America and the world in genuinely peaceful and progressive sorts of ways is simply unsupportable in light of what can easily found and shown about his political career and world view. [18]
Second, nobody held a gun to Obama's head (or Hillary Clinton’s head or Bill Richardson’s head or John Edwards’ head) and said “you must try to climb to the top of this vile and authoritarian sociopolitical order and you must not use your gifts to try to subvert it and replace it with a popular democracy.” No, he (and the others) made that narcissistic choice, which goes nowhere for the rest of us.
“’I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values,’ said Dr. King."
In the spring of 1967, for what it’s worth, King was approached by liberal and left politicos to consider running for the U.S. presidency. King turned the activists down, saying that he preferred to think of himself "as one trying desperately to be the conscience of all the political parties, rather than being a political candidate...I've just never thought of myself as a politician.”[19] The minute he threw his hat into the American presidential ring, King knew, he would be encouraged to compromise his increasingly left message against "the triple evils that are interrelated.”[20] Reflecting on his chastening confrontation with concentrated black poverty and class oppression in the "liberal" urban North and his shock at the horrors of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia,[21] King had come to radical-democratic conclusions. "For years I have labored with the idea of refining the existing institutions of the society, a little change here, a little change there," he told journalist David Halberstam that spring. "Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values." The black freedom movement, King told a crowd at the university of California-Berkeley, had shifted from civil rights to human rights, moving into "a struggle for genuine equality" that "demands a radical redistribution of economic and political power." [22]
As Dr. King certainly knew, these were not exactly "winning" ideas in America's plutocratic and imperial electoral arena. They were moral observations with revolutionary implications leading beyond the steep barriers of existing U.S. politics. They are as relevant and urgent today – more relevant and urgent, truth be told[23] – as they were more than a generation ago.
Paul Street (mailto:[email protected]%29is[email protected])is the author of many articles, chapters, speeches, and books, including Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated School: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); and Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008). Street's next book is titled The Empire's New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2010 - spring).