The war of words over Libya
The attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya has become a key issue in Election 2012--butexplains that the controversy is about rhetoric, not reality.
WHEN MITT Romney and Barack Obama meet in Florida for their final debate on Monday night, you can be sure you'll hear about Libya.
This being an American political campaign, the discussion won't be about the long love-hate relationship between Washington and Libya's former dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. It won't be about the war--oops, the humanitarian mission to enforce a no-fly zone--that Barack Obama commanded last year without consulting Congress. There will be no talk about the interests of Western oil companies in Libya--nor the attempts by the U.S. government to make sure post-Qaddafi Libya is ruled by a pliant regime.
Instead, it will be a debate about words. Specifically, whether Barack Obama used one particular word--"terrorism"--a month ago.
Romney and the Republicans have been desperate to find some way to criticize the Obama administration on foreign policy and the "war on terror"--even though there has been much more continuity between the Obama administration and its Republican predecessors than anyone could have guessed.
So when Islamist radicals--motivated, according to every media report at the time, by the fury felt across the Arab world at a sickening anti-Muslim film produced in the U.S.--attacked a U.S. consulate compound in Libya on September 11 and killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, the Republicans immediately looked for a political advantage.
The gist of their talking points ever since were repeated at the October 16 presidential debate, when Romney attacked Obama for failing to characterize the attack as an "act of terror." Moderator Candy Crowley from CNN intervened to point out that Obama had used exactly this phrase in his first public response to the attack--though she also said that Romney was right in his claim that the administration didn't immediately recognize the attack as "pre-planned."
Still, the right-wing lie machine continued to hype the accusation. Karl Rove's American Crossroads Super PAC, for example, produced a web ad demanding to know why the Obama administration was hiding the facts about an act of terrorism against the U.S.
The controversy conveniently deflects attention from the racist film itself--Innocence of Muslims, a blatant piece of Islamophobic propaganda that portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, pedophile and bloodthirsty fanatic.
The movie--produced by a man with connections to the Islamophobia industry that has grown up in the U.S. since the launching of the "war on terror"--stirred bitter outrage from North Africa to the Middle East and across Asia. But Republicans have used their "evidence" that the consulate attack was "pre-planned" to bury any discussion about the film--and the Democrats, who fear being labeled as "soft on terror," have abandoned that question, too.
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THIS "DISCUSSION" by the candidates has nothing to do with a real debate about U.S. policy in Libya--much less why there might be protests and even acts of violence aimed at the U.S. there and in other countries, after decades of American imperialist conquests in the Middle East and the bigotry toward Islam sanctioned by official U.S. policy.
If it did, the candidates might have talked about how the Obama administration supported "regime change"--that's also what the Bush administration used to call it--in Libya last year under the guise of a "humanitarian" UN mission.
They might have talked about why Obama authorized military intervention in Libya without Congressional approval--despite his statement as a candidate that the "president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
Of course, Mitt Romney isn't interested in critiquing the bloody details of U.S. foreign policy. He's grasping at an issue where he thinks he can make some headway at election time--over which candidate will be more committed to fighting the "war on terror."
But Romney is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks the facts show Obama has been less committed to the "war on terror"--or militarism in general.
Under Obama, the "war on terror" has flourished, just as the prior Bush administration intended it to--as a never-ending war with a limitless number of enemies and fronts, into which every president sinks endless resources, without even a chance of opposition from other politicians.
Obama escalated Bush's first front in the "war on terror"--in Afghanistan--authorizing a surge in troops in 2009. With the war now 11 years old, the Afghan people continue to suffer the deadly consequences while experiencing none of the "democracy" and "liberation" that the U.S. promised.
Late in 2009, Obama ordered cruise missile strikes in Yemen against supposed al-Qaeda terrorist sites. The attacks killed dozens of people without the remotest link to terrorism. Washington's covert war continues today in that country, and the death toll continues to mount. Much the same could be said regarding Pakistan and Somalia.
2009, incidentally, is also the year Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Then there's the primary "accomplishment" that Barack Obama and Joe Biden want you to remember as Election Day approaches. In May 2011, the U.S. assassinated Osama bin Laden--Public Enemy Number One of the "war on terror"--without bothering to arrest him, charge him, put him on trial or anything else.
Bin Laden may be gone, but there have been plenty of other targets to replace him on the "most wanted list"--like Washington's sometimes-friend-sometimes-enemy Qaddafi, whose home was targeted by NATO missiles the day before bin Laden was killed.
If you make that list of targets, then you will be hunted down and killed--even if you are an American citizen. Obama has had no problem claiming he has the authority to have the CIA assassinate U.S. citizens without charging them with a crime, notifying them of the accusation, or giving them a chance to respond.
Barack Obama and the Democrats have not only continued the Bush administration's "war on terror"--they've escalated it in certain ways that Republicans could only have dreamed about in past years. So if Romney thinks the Obama administration isn't hawkish or tough enough, he's grasping at straws for the sake of his campaign.
Anyone who thinks another four years for Obama will mean a more peaceful world should look more closely at the record of the last four years.