by Ed Flaherty
President Obama gave an eloquent speech on May 23, 2013 on the issues of endless war, US drone strikes, Guantanamo, and the 12-year old AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force). Compare his words then with the reality one year later.
“For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, helping to explode our debts and constraining our ability to nation-build here at home.”Reality? The “direct” cost of our Iraq & Afghan wars is over $1.5 trillion, and the Administration wants a $79 billion blank check for fighting undefined wars in FY 2015. (That’s on top of a “basic” Pentagon budget of $495 billion).
“…there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility (Guantanamo) that should never have been opened.” Reality? There were 166 prisoners at Guantanamo a year ago, 154 now. Most of them have been formally cleared for release, and most of the rest have not been formally charged. Hunger strikes there are on-going. Efforts to secure the release of US Army POW Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for Afghan Guantanamo prisoners have not succeeded.
“And before any (drone) strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured…” Reality? Non-combatants have been killed in numerous recent drone strikes in Yemen, including 12-15 wedding-party guests. The Administration refuses to make public the victims of our drone strikes. A Federal judge recently ordered the Administration to release to the public its legal memos justifying the targeting US citizens. Not only has the Administration refused to do that, but it is asking the US Senate to approve for a Federal judgeship the attorney who authored those memos.
“The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old…Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight.” Reality? The US has JSOC (Special Forces) troops in 134 countries, and the numbers of armed Reaper drones, overseas drone bases, and Air National Guard drone control centers (including the Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines) are increasing with no end in sight.
The eloquence and insights of President Obama are admirable. The reality is a stark contrast. The Administration and the Congress must reverse course, and we must insist on it. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is under consideration in Congress right now. This is the time to call our member of the House, our two Senators, and the White House (202 456-1111) to insist that there be no dollars approved for a new war, that Guantanamo be closed, that the record of drone victims be disclosed, that memos “justifying” our drone wars be released, and that the AUMF be terminated at the end of this year.