Barack Obama will leave the White House in eight months with a badly tarnished legacy: another Cold War.
He is a warmonger on a permanent war footing. He’s the world’s No. 1 arms dealer. He refused to end the Cuban embargo and close Guantanamo.
He ordered drone strikes throughout the Middle East, killing many innocent people. The nation under his stewardship is still stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton was his hawkish secretary of state.
His bright promise was unfilled. His deeds seldom matched his rhetoric.
Jennifer Daskal, American University law professor, paints a gloomy portrait of the president’s war against the Taliban in a New York Times opinion column.
“The United States is fighting an unauthorized war,” she writes. “Over the past year and a half American forces have launched 8,800 strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and Libya. The U.S. continues assaults against Al Qaeda in Yemen. It is going after militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.”
Such a war is a boundless, “forever war.” The Nobel Peace laureate renders his award absurd.
A footnote on the arms purchases. The biggest buyer is Saudi Arabia, a kingdom with an appalling human right record, that finances proxy wars throughout the Middle East and exports a terrorist ideology.
Thomas Frank in his latest book, “Listen, Liberal,” says the proof of Obama’s conservatism is constant support for his policies since the early days of his administration by David Brooks, New York Times columnist.
What impressed Brooks was the elite university pedigree of the then-forming Team Obama. They were intellectuals, professionals and techies, wealthy people in the top ranks of society. They often quoted Veblen, R.H. Tawney, Herbert Croly and C.W. Mills–“exceptional citizens.”
Alas, the common people of Andrew Jackson, Democrats, were forgotten. The Democratic base today, the poor and poverty-saddled, is ignored.
In contrast, what President Obama really cares about is issuing executive orders like allowing the Peace Corps to change its logo. Of all the hundreds of executive orders that Obama has issued in seven years, only 10 percent were more than trivia.
MEMORIAM FOR DANIEL BERRIGAN
The New York Times runs obituaries of people whose death is not reported in most other newspapers. Every day the Times runs obits of some scientist, artist, explorer, mapmaker, photographer, stamp collector and president of Burundi that few people ever heard of.
But Daniel Berrigan, who died recently, was somebody whose obit ran at length in the Times.
He was a Jesuit priest who spearheaded opposition to the Vietnam War and landed in prison for his magnificent efforts.
“The United States was tearing itself apart over civil rights and the war in Southeast Asia when Father Berrigan emerged in the 1960s as an intellectual star of the Roman Catholic ‘new left,’ articulating the view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same huge problem: an unjust society,” Daniel Lewis wrote in a Times obituary.
Father Berrigan, his brother Philip, a Josephite priest, and their countless allies, took their case to the streets. A key element in the fight was the burning of Selective Service (draft) records in Catonsville, Md. The trial of the Catonsville Nine inspired more protests across the nation.
Father Berrigan was acting his religion as he found it in a strict reading of Scriptures.
He was back in the news on May 17, 1968, six weeks after the murder of Martin Luther King. Riots broke out anew in dozens of cities.
Nine Catholic activists led by Daniel and Philip Berrigan entered the Knights of Columbus building in Catonsville where the local draft board had offices. In front of astonished clerks, they seized hundreds of draft records, carried them to the parking lot and set them afire with home-made napalm.
“We destroy these draft records because they reveal exploitation of our young men and because they represent misplaced power concentrated in the ruling class in America,” they declared in a statement given to reporters. “We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian churches and synagogues for their silence and cowardice in the face of our country’s crimes.”
But none of this civil disobedience gave him pleasure. He had a dark streak, realizing that none of what he did mattered, that the nation was wedded to war in Vietnam.
Nevertheless, the witty Father Berrigan was also a man of peace, teaching at Fordham, authoring 50 books, among them essays and polemical works, and 15 volumes of poetry.
“A really powerful blow would bring us down like scarecrows. / Nature, knowing this, finds us mildly useful,” Daniel Berrigan versified. He and his brother were much more than mildly useful.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)