Permanent Militarism: When Bioweapons & Land Mines Aren't Even Mentioned

by: David Sirota

Thu Dec 24, 2009 at 09:15

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.

David Sirota :: Permanent Militarism: When Bioweapons & Land Mines Aren't Even Mentioned
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.

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I agree with this article, which seem to build on your important ponts (0.00 / 0)
I Volunteered For Obama in 2008, But His Support of Landmines Is the Last Straw  

Obama's cruel and pointless refusal to ban child-killing landmines was my personal breaking point against the candidate I worked hard to elect.

When friends of mine learn that I have broken my deal with Barack Obama, and no longer support the "light of the world" (as one English friend calls him), they passionately rally around his presidency, almost pleading with me to give him more time, to keep the faith, and asking, moreover: what choice do we have?

A calling to account is not the same as "a lazy cry of betrayal." There's nothing lazy about it: since day one of the inauguration, many of us have been shocked to see Obama going into reverse on his campaign pledges faster than Lewis Hamilton in an F1 car.

Agreeing to disagree (4.00 / 1)
A friend of mine recently said this: President Obama's failings are largely theoretical; his achievements are real. I have some sympathy with that point of view, perhaps because I know my friend to be both decent and honest, but like you, David, I couldn't disagree more vehemently. The President's achievements, such as they are, seem much more like lipstick on the old sow of American Empire than the beginning of anything which could reasonably be called change we can believe in.

The Democratic Party is now officially divided, just as it was in 1968. The rest is up to us.

re: theoretical failings (4.00 / 1)
I dunno, William.  What Obama has done with respect to civil liberties seems real enough to me, and I would call what he has done a failure to fulfill his oath of office.  A failure he seems determined to repeat, reinforce, and promote throughout his tenure in the white House.

I'm also not sure that your fiend hasn't performed a neat rhetorical feat by defining "figure" as real, and "ground" as theoretical... Can someone not only fail by omission as well as by commission?  My talents don't run in that direction, as you are well aware, but there is something about his/her schema that leaves me uneasy.

[ Parent ]
No disagreement here on the substance (4.00 / 1)
His formulation is glib, yes, and suspect otherwise for all sorts of reasons, but it is sincere. These are the folks, like Paul Krugman, who stand between us and the status quo. Like it or not, we have to take them on. Love the sinner, hate the sin, and all that.

[ Parent ]
But do we just continue to complain or do we actually move in a new direction? (0.00 / 0)
It would seem to me that any reasonable progressive could come to the conclusion that this president isn't "The One."  If that is true, do we just continue to complain and then go vote for Democrats in 2010 and 2012?  After 40+ years of voting for them, the fact that they may be better than Republicans is starting to feel hollow to me.  

While blogging, emails, and phone calls does put some pressure on elected legislators, it doesn't seem to motivate them to pass bills preferred by the electorate.  Increasing troops in Afghanistan and the public option are the two most glaring examples.  I think those of us who find the reversals from campaign promises by this administration and by congressmen and senators intolerable, must start to reevaluate how we vote.  Is the fear of Republicans a justification to vote for people who support the corporate health industry, wall street bankers, and the military industrial complex, seemingly without reservation?

Most importantly, have we arrived at a point in which there should be an organized alternative to the DNC that would evaluate and support candidates other than Democrats?  Or do we follow blindly along?

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

Removing Harry Reid is the key. (0.00 / 0)
We're stuck with Obama.  But we can make the President and the Senate work better and on behalf of the people simply by having a new ML.  
Pelosi is outstanding in the House and doesn't cave in to the Moderates or Obmama.  Everything stalls under Harry because he's a Moderate and has fought progressive legislation for years.

His weakness and panderings to lobbyists make the whole party look like idiots to the voters.

Help him lose his re-election. In 2011 we can start again to work on fixing this bill.  Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelsons's mommie won't be there anymore to protect them.

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

[ Parent ]
His position on cluster bombs suckered my vote for him. (0.00 / 0)
As a somewhat strategically hawkish Lefty, the sole reasons I voted for Obama was my perceptions of Hillary as a hard line pro-Israeli hawk, and her horrid 2006 vote against Feinsteins's amendment to place a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs - in civilian areas only. She joined all of the Republicans and the small nest of conserva-dems, to defeat the bill. Obama voted with the Dems.  
While I expected, as President, a slight tack to the Right on defense matters he's actually moved to the neo-con arena on matters of intelligence and defense, only allowing his conscience and constitutional teachings to move a bit back to the Left that brung him on very few issues.

I now wish I had voted for Hillary for one reason - she would have kicked the crap out of Reid and Lieberman's ass and never would have given any Democrat or Republican the chance to screw up her health care and insurance reform bill.
She had the power and the cajones to get it done.  

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

America is the policemen of the world. Invading countries like SWAT invasions in our homes is the American way to law and order, isn't (0.00 / 0)
"As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness." - William O. Douglas


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