Obama channels Bush

Patrick Miner

Over spring break, the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq passed. The day this column was written marks seven-and-a-half years of occupation of Afghanistan. Upwards of 17,000 troops are now to be deployed to Afghanistan. Several weeks ago, President Obama claimed “combat” operations would be finished in Iraq by August of 2010, but it was then revealed that as many as 50,000 troops would stay beyond that date for an indefinite period of time as “advisory and assistance brigades.”
Obama has made the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan his occupations; he has made those wars his wars. Obama is keeping Blackwater, DynCorp, and Triple Canopy, the three largest military contractors, in Iraq. They may also be expanding their work in Afghanistan. In February, DynCorp CEO William L. Ballhaus said, “We’re looking forward to actually a lot more work in Afghanistan based on what’s happening.” Blackwater-now renamed Xe in an attempt to retool their image-was an unfavorable choice for any relationship with the new president, so Triple Canopy has been hired by Obama to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq. This was Blackwater’s main role before the Iraqi government declined their license renewal due to the company’s massacre of seventeen civilians in late 2007.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is planning an increase in the number of drones it employs to strike Pakistani lands as well as an increase in the total number of these attacks. This was reported in The New York Times three days after The Sunday Times of London reported that another 13 people, including women and children, were killed by American drones last Saturday: “As many as 1 million people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas.” The article later reports that “Pakistani officials say drone attacks have been stepped up since President Barack Obama took office in Washington, killing at least 81 people.”
On the domestic front, Obama has chosen to interfere with a consumer lawsuit against AT&T. The unfolding controversy was spelled out in the ****San Francisco Chronicle**** last weekend: “In a 2006 lawsuit, the AT&T plaintiffs accused the company of allowing the National Security Agency to intercept calls and e-mails and inspect records of millions of customers without warrants or evidence of wrongdoing.” The article opens with “The Obama administration is again invoking government secrecy in defending the Bush administration’s wiretapping program …”
With Obama working on two fronts (domestic and middle-east) to preserve Bush’s policies, it’s a wonder why popular support for him remains high. According to a Gallup poll, Obama currently has a 62-percent approval rating. While his support in the poll has been slowly declining since he entered office, this number remains very high.
Obama is Bush with a label-maker. He has replaced Blackwater (who seemingly borrowed his label-maker) with Triple Canopy. He has escalated the war in Afghanistan and called it a “contingency operation” instead of a part of the “war on terror.” And he has increased attacks and therefore civilian deaths in Pakistan and called it strategy. When can we expect something new from our president? What will it take before his conscience begins to weigh heavy on his mind?