I’ve often criticised Britain’s political parties for so often being so similar that it really makes no difference which one you vote for, but it’s worth pointing out that the same applies in other countries. At the weekend I was having a chat with a mate – a dedicated big stater who tends to lean left of centre and supports intervention and Keynesian policies, but a good friend and bloody good company nonetheless – who’s a bit a of a fan of the Obamessiah and has been since he was elected. It’s been one of our numerous points of genial disagreement that Obama, like most politicians, leaves me completely underwhelmed. My friend has gradually come to accept that my disdain for Obama does not stem from an admiration of George W Bush because I’ve bad-mouthed the guy and what he did in his eight years enough times now, but I don’t think I’ve got across to him that my main problem with Obama is that he’s not a noticeable improvement.
This argument has been going on since The One got the Nobel Peace Prize, and as I blogged at the time, everything he’s been praised for either hasn’t happened or has made no difference. Some things – bailing out corporate fuck-ups with taxpayers’ money, for instance – he simply carried on right from where Dubya left off, while things he could have done, changes he could have made rather than just told everyone they could believe in, haven’t happened. The vision of a nuclear free world that so wowed the Nobel Committee? The biggest progress I recall hearing Obama’s US make in that direction was the removal from reserve of an unnecessarily powerful bomb made in the days of megaton willy-waving with the Soviets, and which I imagine was a pain in the arse to store and maintain and wouldn’t have been all that high a priority to use in the event of a nuclear exchange given that America has plenty of more modern warheads in operational status. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty still hasn’t happened, even though nobody is testing bombs at the moment, and the US still has well over 5,000 nukes handy and about the same again in reserve. Guantanamo Bay remains open, immigration and airport security are still insanely paranoid while apparently unable to stop guns being taken onto aircraft, and the Patriot Act remains un-repealed and still gives the federal government some pretty intrusive powers to snoop on its citizens (in fact Obama signed an extension to maintain some powers that were due to expire).
As the Americans might say, colour me unimpressed. And just this morning I see that the Obama administration is again asserting that it has the right – the right, goddammit – to continue the policy of extra-judicial killing of its own citizens in foreign nations.
The Obama administration has asserted a right to kill Americans overseas who are plotting attacks against the United States, laying out specific details for the first time about a policy that critics argue violates US and international law.
Attorney-general Eric Holder said Americans who have joined Al Qaeda or its affiliates can be targeted for lethal strikes if there is an imminent threat to the US and capturing them is not feasible.
He made the remarks in a prepared speech but did not refer directly to the CIA drone strike last year that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim cleric who joined Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate and directed many attacks.
A nutter in Yemen, more than 6,000 miles from the US at its nearest point, and lacking a weapon that can reach across that distance clearly being an imminent threat. Sure, he directed attacks, but how many of these “many attacks” he directed actually took place on US soil? I suspect the answer is none at all, because if there’d been another 9/11 I’m sure it’d have been in the news. So while I’m not sorry that this guy’s dead and won’t shed a tear over any of the like minded US citizens which their government will kill beyond its borders in the future, the fact that the attitude of the White House seems to be “Trials? Meh, put it in the ‘too difficult’ file” doesn’t do much to persuade me that its occupant is less trigger happy than his predecessor.
Bloody shame that didn’t come up before the weekend’s conversation with my Obama-adoring friend or I could have used it as something else to demonstrate how Bush-like Obama’s America can be. Might not have got through because he’s probably stoking up his dislike for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum instead, both of whom he’s likely to hate for little more than being insufficiently Barack Obama. Me? Well, I wouldn’t support either of ’em if I was an American but it’d be because they both seem to be far too much like Obama, just as I think Obama is too like Bush.
The thing is, you see, they are all politicians, and since most politicians are apt to piss in your ear while telling you it’s the other party’s fault that its raining you’d think that would be bad enough on its own. But most politicians are also alike in that despite their personal and party differences they all share something very significant in common: they each think they have all the answers. And whenever a politician who thinks they have the answers achieves power you can be absolutely certain that you will have those answers forced on you no matter what.
Even if it’s to a question you didn’t ask.