Media Responses to Obama's Speech

Stephen Lendman

Rhetoric substitutes for real change. Believing it's forthcoming is fool's hope. Nothing suggests otherwise.

The media didn't surprise. Media scoundrels support his worst policies. His neoliberal harshness is endorsed. His alliance with monied interests gets no coverage. His crimes of war, against humanity and genocide go unmentioned. His partnership with Israel against Palestine isn't explained. His systematic disdain for rule of law principles gets ignored.

Responses to his Thursday speech were largely positive. Challenging them follows below.

New York Times editors headlined "The End of the Perpetual War," saying:

"For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future." "(T)here is no underestimating the importance of that statement." [Obama] "told the world that the United States must return to a state in which counterterrorism is handled.primarily by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies." [He] "announced important shifts in the policy of using unmanned drones" to kill targeted individuals." [He] "called on Congress to remove the restrictions (on) transfer(ing) detainees from the prison in Cuba." [He] "pledged to create new protections for Americans' civil liberties." [He] said a " 'free press is essential for our democracy.'" "There have been times when we wished we could hear the right words from Mr. Obama on issues like these, and times we heard the words but wondered about his commitment." "This was not either of those moments."

On May 23, Washington Post editors headlined "Obama renews his anti-terrorism strategy," saying:

He's (f)our years wiser." (H)e argues (that) the world (is) a very different place" than when he took office. He's "rethinking" post-9/11 policies. "He renewed his vow to close Guantanamo, urging Congress to stop making the work more difficult."

WaPo editors endorse drone killings. They do so despite violating core international, constitutional, and US statute laws.

[They] "offer an important means of self-defense, in many cases less dangerous to civilians than is more traditional military force." "His intention to have the Pentagon replace the CIA in the execution of (drone) attacks is also welcome." "This war, like all wars, must end," said Obama. "True," said WaPo editors, "but America's enemies will have a say in the timing."

Chicago Tribune editors headlined "Obama won't ground aerial strikes that kill terrorists. Good."

"Drone strikes exterminated many sworn enemies of this country without risking US live on the ground or in the air." "He's right" to continue them. Contrary to what's know, Tribune editors claim "(t)he drone campaign has been extremely and surgically effective, targeting militants across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and parts of Africa. It has killed wide swaths of al-Qaida leadership." "The United States risks losing the advantage of surprise if individual drone strikes become entangled in slow-motion bureaucracy back home." "We fear US warriors shrinking from what in effect are battlefield decisions because they have one eye on Congress, or judges, or some other overseer who is not their commander in chief."

Shifting from war to peace isn't possible, claim Tribune editors. "(W)e're not there yet. That's why the US needs to keep those drones flying."

CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin interrupts Presi-
dent Barack Obama's national security speech, Thursday,
May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort
McNair in Washington.

The Wall Street Journal headlined "Obama Resets War on Terror," saying:

[Obama defended his] "reliance on airstrikes by unmanned drones and argued for new restrictions on their use." "He also said he would resume steps to shrink and eventually close the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." [He said post-9/11 congressional] "Authorization for the Use of Military Force should be revised and eventually repealed to recognize that al Qaeda is a terror organization on the path to defeat."

No matter that Washington invented Al Qaeda. It's used strategically as both enemy and ally. Sometimes it's done simultaneously in different theaters. It's longstanding policy.

Obama said drone strikes "will only target suspected terrorists who pose a 'continuing and imminent threat to the American people.' " No threat whatever exists. The Journal stopped short of explaining. Evidence shows only 2% of those killed are so-called "high-value" targets. His alleged guidelines include requiring "a near certainty" to avoid civilian deaths or injuries.

"Obama signaled an openness to more oversight." His administration is the most secretive in US history. Transparency is verboten. Obama-style reset is new wine in old bottles.

The Los Angeles Times headlined "Obama puts restrictions on drone program."

What followed repeated much of what's said above. "The speech set a new road map for US policy and a clear pivot for Obama." It masks business as usual. Expect no substantive change in war on terror policy.

Nation magazine tried having things both ways. It gave John Sifton op-ed space. He's Human Rights Watch's Asia advocacy director. Longstanding HRW policy supports Western imperialism. Sifton headlined "Obama Rejects Perpetual War, but Questions Remain About Targeted Killings," saying:

[Obama's Speech] "contained a number of significant announcements." [He pledged] "resum(ing) releases of Guantanamo prisoners 'recommended for transfer.' " [He promised] "to clarify the process and improve transparency" on drone policy. "(M)ost significant was pledg(ing) to 'engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force.' " "President Obama today seemed to mark the beginning of the end of the worldwide 'war on terror.' "

Of course, he did no such thing. He promised change straightaway in office. America "went off course," he said. He pledged a new direction. Business as usual continued. Sifton called rejecting perpetual war "notable." At the same time, "serious questions remain," he said. Obama maintained that America's still at war with Al Qaeda and "unspecified 'associated forces.' "

He stopped short of defining what who they are. Until he does so, his "current formulation leaves open the possibility of unlimited, unending use of military force anywhere in the world."

He left unexplained how he'll engage Congress. "(M)any of (his) current standards seem to remain in place." "(W)hile President Obama's pledges to rein in lethal operations could prove a step in the right direction, until limitations are put in place, the boundaries for the use of US military force remain disturbingly undefined."

Throughout his tenure, Nation magazine largely endorsed Obama's agenda. Criticism when expressed most often was muted. Lawless policies are mostly ignored or glossed over. Accountability's been largely unaddressed. It's longstanding Nation magazine policy. It pretends to support rule of law principles, equity, justice, peace, and other democratic values. Often it falls woefully short. It's a virtual voice for Democrat party politics. On issues mattering most, both parties support each other's agenda. Duopoly power runs America. Monied interests control it. Supporting Obama and other Democrats endorses what demands condemnation. Nation magazine and other faux progressives do it consistently. They betray loyal followers in the process. They aid and abet lawless state policy. They remain unaccountable. Supporting wrong over right happens too often. Doing so violates journalistic ethics. "Thoroughness and honesty" are mandated. It matters most on major issues.

People have a right to know. Legitimate journalists are obligated to tell them. Most fall woefully short. Faux progressives are worst of all. They spurn much of what they claim to support. Why they'll have to explain.

Fact Check on Media Responses to Obama's Speech

Perpetual war is official US policy. Historian Charles Beard (1874 - 1948) called it "perpetual war for perpetual peace." Historian Gore Vidal used Beard's phrase. He titled his 2002 book "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace," saying:

"(O)ur rulers for more than half a century have made sure that we are never to be told the truth about anything that our government has done to other people, not to mention our own."

His same year book titled "Dreaming War" compared GW Bush's imperial ambitions to WW II and the 1947 Truman Doctrine. It promised war, not peace.

Throughout his tenure, Obama waged multiple direct and proxy war. They continue out-of-control. He plans more of the same. Nothing he said Thursday suggests otherwise. He spurns rule of law principles. He hardened police state ruthlessness. He's waged war on human rights and civil liberties. He's done so on press freedom, whistleblowers, Occupy Wall Street, anti-war dissent, and others challenging rogue governance. He falsely claims Congress restricts his right to close Guantanamo and release uncharged prisoners. He's fully authorized to do both on his own.

Saying "(t)his war, like all wars, must end" masks longstanding imperial policy. America's business is war. It's institutionalized. Obama intends continuity. His record reflects it. His alleged shift in drone killing policy reflects doublespeak duplicity. Anyone can be targeted anywhere, any time for any reason or none at all.

It doesn't matter whether Pentagon or CIA officials pick targets. Extrajudicial killing is lawless. Nothing whatever justifies it. Deciding who lives or dies reflects tyranny. So does spurning rule of law principles.

Noncombatant civilians are especially vulnerable. Evidence shows only 2% of victims are so-called "high-value" targets. Others reflect so-called "collateral damage." Edward Herman once called it "genocide with sincere regrets."

In her book, "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil," Hannah Arendt said crimes of state aren't committed by fanatics or sociopaths.

"(T)errifyingly normal" people are responsible. They're "neither perverted or sadistic." [They] "accepted the premises of their superiors and their state."

They did so to continue current and/or longstanding policies. It's true up the chain of command. It's up to where the buck stops. Obama reflects the worst of what she meant. He spurns popular concerns. His record reflects broken promises. He's done so across the board. He proved he can't be trusted. Rhetoric substitutes for real change. Believing it's forthcoming is fool's hope. Business as usual remains policy. Nothing suggests otherwise.

Note: High-minded rhetoric is meaningless. Policies alone matter. Obama's record speaks for itself!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He has devoted his time and efforts to progressive causes and organizations, all involved in working for a more humane and just world for all people everywhere, but especially for the most needy, disadvantaged and oppressed. His efforts since summer 2005 have included writing on a broad range of vital topics ranging from war and peace; social, economic and political equity for all; and justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world like the long-suffering people of Haiti and the Palestinians. He also co-hosts The Global Research News Hour, gives occasional public talks, and appears frequently on radio and at times television. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. Also visit his blog and listen to The Lendman News Hour on Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening. His new book "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War" can be ordered HERE. He can be reached at

Photo 1+2: Pablo Martinez Monsivais


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