By the calculations of the White House, beheaded journalist James Foley’s life wasn’t worth the annual “earnings” of a top US corporate CEO. It wasn’t worth a tiny fraction of the money paid out by the federal government to giant corporations and their filthy well-off CEOs in the form of cost-plus “defense” contracts and other subsidies to the rich.
Foley’s grisly murder was, however, an opportunity for Barack Obama to express outrage and determination to press on with the same military and imperial policies that have done so much to create the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the new arch-reactionary caliphate in the Middle East. In an official statement on Foley’s killing, Barack Obama “went all Bush” as he spoke with seething anger:
“They have rampaged across cities and villages — killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They have murdered Muslims…by the thousands….ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day…the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery and… the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.”
Going through that condemnation, it is difficult for any honest and competent observer not to notice how much of it could accurately be applied to Israel. Imagine Obama saying anything remotely comparable about Israel’s mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza this summer (see the name, age, and gender of nearly 1800 Palestinian victims counted as of August 13, 2014 here) and the deadly apartheid and related miserable poverty Israel imposes on the Palestinian people (including 1.8 million trapped in the besieged open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip) every single day. It’s unthinkable, of course.
What “just God would stand for” Israel’s targeted massacre of women and children in apartment buildings, schools, UN shelters, hospitals, playgrounds, and beaches? Or for the miserable restrictions Israel places on Gaza residents’ basic human rights, including the right to decent food, shelter, clean water, and more?
(I am reminded of November and December 2008, when then President Elect Obama condemned in no uncertain terms the Islamist terror attack in Mumbai but claimed that “institutional constraints” – “one president at a time” – prevented him from commenting on recent large-scale Israeli massacres in Gaza.)
But then, speaking of the massacre of Muslims, “what just God would stand” for the United States’ one-sided killing of literally millions of Iraqi civilians – including more than a million children – since 1991?
You want to learn about evil that “no just God would stand for”? Take a look at US policy in Iraq, including early on the “Highway of Death,” when U.S. forces massacred tens of thousands of surrendered Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait on February 26 and 27, 1991. The Lebanese-American journalist Joyce Chediac testified that:
“U.S. planes trapped the long convoys by disabling vehicles in the front, and at the rear, and then pounded the resulting traffic jams for hours. ‘It was like shooting fish in a barrel,’ said one U.S. pilot. On the sixty miles of coastal highway, Iraqi military units sit in gruesome repose, scorched skeletons of vehicles and men alike, black and awful under the sun…for 60 miles every vehicle was strafed or bombed, every windshield is shattered, every tank is burned, every truck is riddled with shell fragments. No survivors are known or likely…. ‘Even in Vietnam I didn’t see anything like this. It’s pathetic,’ said Major Bob Nugent, an Army intelligence officer…. U.S. pilots took whatever bombs happened to be close to the flight deck, from cluster bombs to 500 pound bombs…. U.S. forces continued to drop bombs on the convoys until all humans were killed. So many jets swarmed over the inland road that it created an aerial traffic jam, and combat air controllers feared midair collisions…. The victims were not offering resistance…it was simply a one-sided massacre of tens of thousands of people who had no ability to fight back or defend.”
Less than a year after his forces inflicted this unthinkable carnage, U.S. President George H.W. Bush proclaimed that, “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America. And they regard this with no dread. For the world trusts us with power, and the world is right. They trust us to be fair and restrained. They trust us to be on the side of decency. They trust us to do what’s right.”
Later came Madeline Albright proclaiming on CBS (1996) that “the price” of 500,000 dead Iraqi children killed by US-led economic sanctions was “worth paying” for the advance of inherently noble US foreign policy goals. Then there was the monumentally criminal US invasion that killed a million-plus in Iraq (2003-2012/13) – an invasion that included among countless US atrocities the practical levelling and radioactive poisoning of an entire city (Fallujah) in April and November of 2004. It’s all wonderful context for something then presidential candidate Obama liked to say on the campaign trail in the summer of 2008: “it’s time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money putting [the US of] America back together.” What did a “just God” think of that little bit of evil populace-manipulating trickery?
What would a “just God” think of what a US military source told antiwar journalist and author Jeremy Scahill about a standard Special Forces “anti-terror” operation in the Age of Obama: “If there’s one person they’re going after and there’s thirty-four [other] people in the building, then thirty-five people are going to die.”
I could go on. The Orwellian-doublethink absurdity of it all is just breathtaking. It applies to the “homeland” as well. The “first black president” is immeasurably more upset about the brutal killing of a white US journalist than he is about the pitiless liquidation of hundreds of Black US civilians by US cops every year. He cautions against protestor violence in Ferguson but he sure loves to launch the missiles, bombs, and drones all over the Muslim world (on bombs just ask the people of Bola Boluk). He sure was ready to give the racist apartheid state of Israel more ammunition to kill more Palestinian children, wasn’t he? The technically Black Obama’s “going all Bush” over James Foley but it’s all caution and calm when it comes to Mike Brown…and Denzel Curnell (killed by South Carolina police in Charleston last June), and Ezell Ford (shot to death by an LAPD officer earlier this month) and Eric Garner (choked to the death by the NYPD last July), and Dante Parker (Tased to death by county police Victorville, CA earlier this month) and Kajieme Powell (killed by 10 police bullets after stealing pastries in St. Louis last Tuesday)…and…the list goes on and on.
What just God stands for predominantly white US police, security guards, and self-appointed vigilantes killing a Black civilian once every 28 hours on average or for the United States’ emergence as the world’s mass incarceration leader (a curious attainment for the self-appointed homeland and headquarters of “freedom”) largely on the basis of the arrest, incarceration, and lifelong criminal-marking of mostly nonviolent Black American “offenders” (who make up 40 percent of the nation’s massive 2.4 million prisoner army)? What “just God stands for” for the persistent hyper-segregation and near-starvation of millions of deeply poor US Black children or the continuation of an institutionally racist power structure so savage that the net worth of the median white US household is 22 times that of the median black US household?
What just God would stand for the existence of 16 million US children living below the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level in: a now openly oligarchic nation so unequal that the top 1% holds more wealth than the bottom 90%; a nation whose “popular” government stands ready to spend 29 trillion taxpayer dollars on the rescue of parasitic financial institutions that crashed the economy; a nation of mass poverty and insecurity with the weakest welfare amongst all “developed” countries that accounts for half of the world’s military spending. That giant “defense” expenditure is necessary among other things for it to maintain more than 1000 military installations across more than 100 “sovereign” nations and for Obama to place US Special Forces now in 134 nations.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in New York City’s Riverside Church exactly one year before his assassination, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” This was same speech in which King said the following on why he had chosen to condemn the mass murderous US war on Indochina: “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”
The US ghettos still stand in big cities and also in suburbs like Ferguson, Missouri, and smaller towns like Benton Harbor, Michigan. They are as abandoned and demonized as ever (Ferguson’s whites have reportedly gone on a gun-purchasing spree) while well more than $1 trillion is spent each year to support the United States’ continuing role as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” – a role that is well understood outside the US, by a global populace that continues to rank the US as the leading threat to peace on Earth.
If there’s a “just God” (or just Goddess) in the cosmos, She or He does not look favorably on US Empire and Inequality at home and abroad. She/He is also not pleased with the narrow and selective fake-moralism of Barack Obama.
Paul Street is a writer and author in Iowa City, Iowa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His next book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (order at http://www.paradigmpublishers.com/Books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=367810).