The Obama Wars

July 12th, 2019 - by David Swanson / David & World BEYOND War

David Swanson / David & World BEYOND War

(July 10, 2019) — By “the Obama wars” I don’t mean some overgrown infants on television screaming racist insults or pretending that opposing racism requires cheering for Obama.

I mean: the widespread indiscriminate murder of human beings with missiles — many of them from robot airplanes — let loose to threaten any non-white country on earth by Obama and expanded by Trump. I mean the catastrophic destruction of Libya — still continued by Trump. I mean the war on Afghanistan, the vast bulk of which was overseen by Obama, though Bush and Trump have had minor roles.

I mean the assault on Yemen, begun by Obama and escalated by Trump. I mean the war on Iraq and Syria escalated first by Obama and then by Trump (following the de-escalation locked in place by Bush though Obama fought it tooth-and-nail).

I mean the conflict with Iran, heightened by Obama and then dramatically again by Trump. I mean the expansion of conflict-producing troops and bases across Africa and Asia. I mean the creation of the new cold war with Russia. I mean the build up in nuclear weapons and the delusional rhetoric about “usable” nuclear weapons.

I mean the support for Israel’s wars on Palestinians. I mean the coups in Ukraine and Honduras. I mean the threats to Venezuela. I mean the normalization of fantastical excuses for the gravest crimes. I mean the practice of campaigning on ending wars, never ending any of them, and never having anyone really care. I mean the constant shattering of past records in military spending.

Obama’s legacy, despite all sorts of variations, many of them superficial, and despite its role in defeating Hillary Clinton at the ballot box, has largely been maintained, advanced, and imitated by bipartisan consensus and by Donald Trump.

If you want to review what Obama did in that quirky little area of his job to which some 60% of federal discretionary spending is devoted, and which puts us all at risk of nuclear disaster, pick up a copy of Jeremy Kuzmarov’s book Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State.

Kuzmarov places Obama in historical context and outlines his parallels with Woodrow Wilson, another extreme militarist generally understood as a peace visionary. Kuzmarov reviews — and adds information that many of us probably never knew — the story of Obama’s rise to power and the story of all of his many wars.

We tend to forget that right up through the presidency of George W. Bush wars were thought of as temporary things that had endings. Now they’re hardly thought of at all, but they’re understood to be permanent. And they’re thought of in partisan terms.

We sometimes forget that candidate Obama, like candidate Trump, promised a larger military. Candidate Obama promised a larger war on Afghanistan. And when it came time for Obama’s re-election to a second term, he reached out to the New York Times and asked that paper to write an article about how good he was at killing people, about how he carefully studied a list of men, women, and children and picked out the ones in whose name he would send missiles into clusters of unidentified victims.

Obama’s claim, in his own words, was “I’m really good at killing people.” Nobody who liked Obama and didn’t like murder allowed themselves to become aware of this aspect of Obama’s re-election campaign; and they never will become aware of it.

The reason it matters is that over 20 Democrats are now campaigning for president, some of whom are promoting the same sort of militarism, some of whom are opposing it to some degree, and some of whom have revealed little or nothing about their positions on such matters.

One of them, Joe Biden, was part of Obama’s wars. Biden is the guy who claimed of the mass-slaughter of people in Libya, “We didn’t lose a single life.”

Kamala Harris is the woman who will never ever question whether by “life” he meant “non-African life.” She’s too busy worrying that peace might break out in Korea.

The stupidity of tokenism will plague us until we at least have the decency to regret having fallen for it before. The stupidity of militarism will plague us until we stop glorifying and excusing it and start supporting efforts to create peace.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Swanson was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the US Peace Memorial Foundation.


Nicolas D.

Smart, charismatic and well-spoken, but serving the wrong masters. That can be even more dangerous than being dumb, ugly and incoherent like Trump. Now that Trump has completed Obama’s 100,000 bomb campaign to destroy Mosul and Raqqa, he is dropping fewer bombs than Obama did, except in Afghanistan. And who is responsible for the US producing more oil and gas than ever and for the world having no binding treaty on carbon emissions when Kyoto expires next year?

When will we understand that Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump are on the same team and that we have been played by a classic good cop-bad cop routine, with corrupt Republicans as the bad cops and corrupt Democrats as the good cops, all working on behalf of the same would-be owners and rulers of the entire world?

Donald S.

David wrote, “One of them, Joe Biden, was part of Obama’s wars.”  But I read in several places that Biden repeatedly opposed escalation in Afghanistan, in contrast to Hillary, who was consistently hawkish.

David’s article would benefit by being longer, with more documentation. 

The article supplements what I’ve said about Obama (to the consternation of some Democrats):  he was handed an opportunity to hold the neocons, the GOP, and Wall Street accountable but instead coddled them — thereby helping Trump win.  I get it that Obama wasn’t progressive. What’s mysterious is how badly he treated his own party. He’s an enigma.  Sad, because he could have been great. He was smart, charismatic, and well-spoken.

Michael L.

Well said Nicholas! If more Americans woke up to these facts perhaps then we’d start to have real “hope and change”. Many think we have a two party system but there’s really only one party especially when it comes to foreign policy. I wish more people like David wrote the history books that our children study. 

Meet the new boss

Same as the old boss

We won’t get fooled again

— The Who (1971)

Marc S.

I see it differently. I think it’s a mistake to personalize the monstrous foreign policy of the USA into the decision-making power of a single person – Obama, or Trump. This gives the illusion that serious problems can be solved by electing the right President. 

As Tolstoy pointed out in “War and Peace”, leaders are only a reflection of the societies they lead. The core problem in the USA is that toxic levels of fear,  jingoism, white supremacy and capitalist greed are baked into this society. This why all USA elected officials and candidates reflect these sicknesses. 

I’m not going to spend themis depressing election season despising all candidates because none of them except Marianne Williamson are truly anti-war. Even though a badly deluded and fear-driven society will inevitably elect a flawed and compromised leader, I know that it makes a big difference which flawed and compromised leader we get stuck with, so I will support a better choice over a worse choice. 

Meanwhile, I’m going to put all my effort into helping to inform and motivate people at the widest level. This is why I work with World Beyond War rather than working for any candidate. I think focusing on the politics of the public as a whole, rather than on the flawed leaders who inevitably end up leading the horrible mess, is our best hope for change.