With so many Americans talking about peace and love and warmth and family and all the other holiday-ish stuff this week, I wanted to take a moment to look back on an issue that seemed to get lost in the back-and-forth over the president's Nobel prize speech.
Obama used the speech to defend war making - and Glenn Greenwald is absolutely right to note that both the Democratic president's speech and the bipartisan praise for it goes a long way to baking permanent militarism into our political debate. It's hard to argue anymore that militarism is merely a Bush-ian or Republican ideology - it's now become a consensus within our political establishment.
What was amazing to me about the speech, however, was not its defense of war. Setting aside debates about whether Afghanistan is a "just war" and whether, really, there's any merit to the burn-the-village-to-save it ideology of the new make-war-to-end-war argument, I found it striking that very few observers brought up some absolute no-brainers we should all expect a Nobel Peace Prize-winner to do, but that President Obama has refused to do.
|For example, there's bioweapons:
President Barack Obama is sticking to the U.S. refusal to negotiate monitoring of biological weapons, the top U.S. arms official said Wednesday.
The Cold War-era treaty, the only major international arms pact to lack an inspection mechanism to check against cheating, commits parties not to develop, stockpile or use biological weapons and to promote the peaceful uses of biology and technology. It has been ratified by about 160 countries.
The Hill newspaper additionally notes that Obama's decision means administration policy "has not departed from the Bush administration's stance" - a stance that saw "Bush withdraw the U.S. from negotiations" because the international community is "looking to create an inspection or verification process to ensure that the more than 160 countries pledging to the Biological Weapons Convention mandates - which prohibit the development, production and stockpiling of weaponized disease agents such as anthrax, smallpox or plague - were staying true to their word." In other words, we're rejecting the negotiations because while we demand other countries open up themselves to inspections - and are now waging a war in Iraq because of those demands - we are not willing to open ourselves up to the same scrutiny.
Then there's the whole issue of land mines:
After reviewing the Bush-era policy, the Obama White House has decided to maintain the prior administration's refusal to sign an international treaty banning land mines, according to published reports.
"More than 150 countries have agreed to the Mine Ban Treaty's provisions to end the production, use, stockpiling and trade in mines," the Associated Press noted. "Besides the United States, holdouts include: China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia."
Human rights groups note just how outrageous this really is by noting that the pact merely "bans the use, stockpiling, production or transfer of land mines" - nothing more.
Mind you, these are just two examples. They say nothing about rendition, Gitmo or anything like that. Those issues, at least, have gotten a bit of (but not certainly not enough) attention. These, by contrast, are two picked out of a hat that have gotten almost no attention - even during a Nobel prize moment when they should be front and center.
So sure, we can argue about whether the Afghanistan escalation is an escalation (somehow) in the spirit of making peace. I don't think it is, but sure - you can make an argument to the contrary as you defend Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize and defend his speech at the award ceremony. But can you really argue that rejecting a bioweapons treaty and a land mines treaty is the act of someone genuinely interested in peace? I think not.
That this was barely mentioned in the lead-up to Obama's speech isn't surprising - and it's omission from much of the coverage and debate only underscore' Greenwald's point. War, violence and killing are now not debatable - indeed, those atrocities aren't even newsworthy. They are part of the bipartisan consensus to the point where many of the worst examples aren't even talked about.