The Birth And Death Of America’s 21st Century Anti-War Movement

by William Skink

It’s too bad America doesn’t have an anti-war movement.

Once upon a time Democrats pretended to be against wars. That was when it was Bush and the Neocons, with a little help from the New York Times, getting us mired in the Middle East.

A wave of Democrats, like Jon Tester, were elected in 2006, largely due to voter dissatisfaction with Bush’s wars. Years later this MSNBC piece asked What happened to the anti-war Democrats? From the link:

The 2006 midterm elections swept in a wave of anti-war Democrats running against the Bush administration’s unpopular Iraq policies. The public was so frustrated with the war in Iraq and President Bush by 2006 that it returned the Democrats to power in Congress for the first time in 12 years. Sen. Barack Obama campaigned for president in 2008 as the peace candidate in contrast to his Democratic rivals Sens. Clinton, Edwards, Dodd, and Biden, all of whom supported granting Bush the authority to use force in Iraq.

But what happened to the anti-war sentiment in the Democratic Party? Wasn’t the Republican Party known for using military might to spread democracy? Democrats were were supposed to be the party of diplomacy and conflict resolution through peaceful means. Now it’s a Democratic president and Democratic senators leading the charge for war.

Democratic senators, like New Jersey’s Bob Menendez and Maryland’s Ben Cardin, were two members of the House of Representatives who voted with the minority of their colleagues against granting President Bush’s Iraq resolution in 2002. Now U.S. senators from their respective states, both elected in the 2006 midterms, Menedez and Cardin sit on the Foreign Relations Committee and supported the resolution to take military action in Syria.

Americans who remember their recent history can recall how Obama’s criticism of Hillary’s foreign policy hawkishness helped him secure the Democratic nomination. Once the electorate was effectively conned, Obama won the White House and flipped, retaining Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense and later placing the sociopath Hillary Clinton as SoS.

I was much younger and very gullible in 2008 when I cast my vote for Obama. I didn’t make the same mistake in 2012. By then it was obvious that Obama was no anti-war politician.

The CIA got away with torturing all kinds of “terrorists” around the globe at black sites because our Commander-in-Chief, Obama, wanted to “look forward” instead of holding anyone accountable.

The link is to an Atlantic piece from 2018 that examines how Obama’s “legacy of impunity for torture” includes Trump’s pick of Gina Haspel to run the lawless CIA. From the link:

Much has been made of President Trump’s disregard for rules and norms—boundaries delineated by ethics and morality if not written laws themselves. But transgressing laws, rules, and norms isn’t the only way to destroy them. Another way is simply not to enforce them.

In that regard, the 44th president, Barack Obama, bears a measure of responsibility for the recklessness of his successor, in particular Trump’s decision to appoint Gina Haspel, the Central Intelligence Agency’s deputy director, to run the agency itself. Haspel oversaw a black site during the Bush era where at least one detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was tortured*.

Despite that, al-Nashiri provided “essentially no actionable information,” according to a CIA interrogator cited in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. Haspel also then played a role in a decision to destroy recordings of CIA detainees being tortured.

Before Obama even took office, he announced his belief that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards” on torture. That set the standard for Obama’s tenure, as all avenues of accountability for Bush-era torture were curtailed. A Justice Department inquiry into interrogators who broke even the “acceptable torture” guidelines ended with no charges. Civil lawsuits from former detainees were blocked when the Obama-era Justice Department invoked the state secrets doctrine. An internal Justice Department review of the torture memo’s authors concluded they had not committed professional misconduct when they worked backwards to justify the Bush administration’s use of torture in defiance of laws against it. Even a proposal for a South African-style “truth and reconciliation” commission was rejected. All avenues for any form of accountability for torture—criminal, civil, even professional—were blocked by Obama-era officials. Even an episode in which the CIA spied on Senate staff in an effort to stonewall an inquiry that ultimately found CIA torture ineffective, and then lied about having done so, ended with little more than an apology.

Those of us who maintained our anti-war stance amidst Obama’s myriad betrayals were mocked and ridiculed by Democrat partisans, slowly withering away all vestiges of Democratic support for anti-war sentiments. Maintaining secret kill lists a disposition matrix was a-ok with Democrats because, hey, it was their slick, half-black President doing the drone-killing.

Now we have Trump closing out his first term with a targeted killing of an Iranian general that could literally spark WWIII. It will be interesting to see how Democrats respond to Trump’s escalation of his role as Commander-in-Chief, which was made possible by Obama looking forward and building on the abuses of power grabbed by Bush after 9/11.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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