Friday, November 25, 2011

Thoughts on Obama as "Our Commander-in-Chief"

I.  Last week a commenter to one of my posts at Progressive Alaska critical of the President wrote:
Heads up, Phil, the more you attack and demean our Commander in Chief, the more you reveal your own deep dissatisfaction with your own life, your own self and most likely your own upbringing.
 My November 22nd post had implored the president to condemn police violence against Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, as he has against police violence in other countries, over the course of 2011's growing crescendo of civil disobedience against entrenched power.

It wasn't the first time I had seen a civilian describing this president as "our commander-in-chief."  But it was the first time here.  Back during the Bush era one would see his supporters at blogs and comment sections to news articles referring to W in the same way.  But these comments elevating Obama to this somewhat dangerously mythic status seem to be a new development.

The term "commander in chief" is addressed specifically in the U.S. Constitution.  Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1 states, in part:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States
When I served in the U.S. Army, the President was my Commander-in-Chief, outranking all the Army's generals.  The minute I got my Honorable Discharge, he was no longer my "Commander-in-Chief,"  nor has any subsequent President had that role in my life, or in that of any other civilian.

That is the way our system has worked since the Constitution was ratified on September 13th, 1788.  Even during the depths of our Civil War, between the battles of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, the President was only the commander of the military forces and their direct auxiliaries.

The current enabling legislation for fighting war is the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (AUMF), from October 16th of that year.  Given that, with factual information taken into account, the Iraq War is an illegal war of aggression, and that the information given to Congress that was used to enact the AUMF was intentionally falsified, the expansion of war powers given to the military's Commander-in-Chief is as questionable as the reasons for the war.

II.  The AUMF has been used as a guise to do many illegal acts, but to see supporters of Obama now morph the total war forever culture that has emanated from this horror into "Obama is our commander-in-chief" is disturbing.

People pushing Obama as some sort of  military and anti-terror savant often claim that he is pulling us out of Iraq.  They are wrong.  Obama seriously fought to abrogate the force withdrawal agreement negotiated between the USA and Iraq before he became President.  We're getting kicked out, in spite of Obama's efforts to keep us there until .... ?

People pushing Obama as some sort of military genius are having a hard time convincing rational people that there is any good news in Afghanistan.  But Obama did manage to negotiate lengthening our prolongation there of the longest war in US history, even as there are no signs of either something we might declare as victory, or respite for the Afghans themselves.

People pushing Obama or the USA as having been the vital part in the Libyan civil war's ongoing narrative, or having been a positive force in the Arab Spring need to do more research.  We didn't do much to slow the Tunisian revolt, but we moved several times to save the Egyptian status quo and quash aspirations for freedom.

The killing of Osama bin Laden shut a big door for a lot of people.  I never wrote about it here because whatever importance the man once had in the scheme of what this conflict has become had been seriously overshadowed by the insane stupidity of our reaction to whatever it is that he did to us from the late 90s through his late 2001 disappearance.

The drone wars, which Obama has frighteningly expanded, probably make far more enemies than were there before our poorly aimed strikes occurred.  Sure enough, down the road, some kid whose sister, mom and three brothers were blown to smithereens a few weeks ago, is going to seek revenge in 2017 or so, prompting calls for more of our freedoms to be taken from us by whichever Republicrat pol occupies the White House then as "our commander-in-chief."

III.  How much "our commander-in-chief" is his own master when it comes to war powers, policy and scope of actions in those realms is certainly open to dispute.  The meme of emperors, kings, dictators and chief executives being trapped in the labyrinth of policies that come with the job, or they are somehow unable to change, is thousands of years old.

But American history has examples of Presidents who avoided wars, found their ways quickly out of them, or sought to end all wars, or at least devastating ones.

Eisenhower quickly ended the Korean War.

Wilson sought to create a climate of cooperation after World War I, only to be defeated by Congress.

John F. Kennedy was working toward a strikingly thorough disarmament regime when he was killed.

Obama is expanding drone wars and fighting hard (unsuccessfully) to keep cluster bomb munition use from becoming war crimes,

People who claim Obama inherited the biggest fuckup in US history are rght.

People who claim that this justifies his wars on civil liberties, whistleblowers, scientists, soldiers exposing war crimes, the environment, and unions are deceiving themselves.


Anonymous said...

The Office of President deserves respect. But, he could have done better.

Doesn't Hillary look pretty could now. Could have, Should, Would have.

Anonymous said...


No - Hillary does not look better. She lost me with her pro war attitude and I voted for Obama. Now I'd say I got snookered and they are two of a kind.

So,now, in addition to the lesser of evils, I guess I'll be voting for 'the devil I know'.

And, not voting is not an option.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Another fabulous photo.

The origins of your photos are more interesting than your rhetoric. And serve to clarify why you think what you do.

You got this one from a December 2009 blog post.
Der Spiegel: Never Before Has A Speech Felt So False
It happens to be copyrighted.

Here's comments from THAT blog:
"this pic/foto,poster from obama patton abuse real patton the honor of General patton is only him,why you stolen a copiright pic? obama is obama is ok and god but is not a foto from him when you whant but dont play with his name."

"I agree. Speaks more negatively of the person launching this sily site than it does of either great American brought into this trumped up discussion."

But it came from an October 2009 blog post criticizing Obama's Nobel prize, authored by J. M. Álvarez and excerpted by Federico Dal Cortivo (Buenos Aires).
Obama: ¿Premio Nobel de la Paz o de la Guerra?

You'll want to see the original photo - it's much better and way more insulting!

And bonus! These guys have just a ton of insulting rude Obama photographs and graphics. You'll like it. And for the Glenn Greenwald fans, he posts there too.

In 2008, the guy wrote a similar criticism of Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2008.
"Nobel Prize ¿a mobster?>

But who's J. M. Álvarez, you ask?
JM Álvarez is a well-known vocal supporter of, and apologist for the Castro regime in Cuba.
He opposes US foreign policy of the Bush Administration and the Obama administration's continuation of the Cuba embargo/blockade.

"Translator’s note: JM Álvarez and MH Lagarde are well-known vocal supporters of and apologists for the Castro regime in Cuba. This graphic is from the blog of JM Álvarez. Obviously OLPL does not share these men’s opinions, as his readers know well."

But really, you should have used this one:

Exactly what ARE your politics, Munger? Very weird, very 'eclectic'. Do you even know who your playmates are?

Anonymous said...

A decimated terrorist network

It’s hard to overstate how much success the United States has had over the last few years against al Qaeda. The terrorist network isn’t dead, but it’s close.

The leadership ranks of the main al-Qaeda terrorist network, once expansive enough to supervise the plot for Sept. 11, 2001, have been reduced to just two figures whose demise would mean the group’s defeat, U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials said.

Ayman al-Zawahiri and his second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, are the last remaining “high-value” targets of the CIA’s drone campaign against al-Qaeda in Pakistan, U.S. officials said, although lower-level fighters and other insurgent groups remain a focus of Predator surveillance and strikes. […]

“We have rendered the organization that brought us 9/11 operationally ineffective,” a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said. Asked what exists of al-Qaeda’s leadership group beyond the top two positions, the official said: “Not very much. Not any of the world-class terrorists they once had.”

This would have been hard to predict as recently as five years ago. At that point, evidence suggested al Qaeda was growing in size and strength, with increased fundraising, and recruiting boosts resulting from the war in Iraq and the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Now, however, the network has been all but crushed. Remember a few years ago, before the 2008 elections, when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) proclaimed on Fox News that al Qaeda members would be “dancing in the streets” if Barack Obama were elected president? Well, that turned out to be backwards.

Given all of this, can we pretty much wrap up the whole “war on terror” thing? Apparently not. The same piece that reported on al Qaeda’s dismantling also tells us that the terrorist network could regroup if we move on, and that its Yemen-based spin-off group — al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — remains a key international threat.

But in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s demise, the fact remains that al Qaeda, whatever its intentions for the future, has been reduced to a largely defeated force.

Anonymous said...

I remain unrepentant in my support for this president, a man who has accomplished more in the face of a more hostile environment in his first three years than any president since Johnson.

Philip Munger said...

"Exactly what ARE your politics, Munger? Very weird, very 'eclectic'. Do you even know who your playmates are?"

--- Well, for one thing, I'm certainly not a supporter of the continuing blockade of Cuba, as you seem to be, thank you. Another issue upon which I'm in disagreement with this administration.

The Cuban government is certainly less of an abuser of human rights than a long list of countries whose delegates and heads-of-this-and-that often visit the WH: China, Saudi Arabia and Israel (regarding the West Bank), for starters. Our Cuba policy is a cynical ploy for the Florida vote. Under both Republocrats and Demublicans.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ 11:49 am:

See you an obamaachievements dot org, and raise you a:

Anonymous said...

NOBAMA=teh Bush; he hates scientists and unions

Ron Paul 2012!!!!!!!!!!!111111oneONE!


Anonymous said...

On 12 Nov, you posted a photo of child with his hands blown off and the claim that Obama "took his hands."
Your post was about a December 2009 attack on al-Ma'jalah, Yemen that reportedly killed 55 people including 14 alleged members of al-Qa’ida, by "US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions."

The photo is copyright International.

It was posted on a Colombian website in September 2007: "Colombia tiene mayor número de víctimas de minas antipersonas.
Colombia has the largest number of victims of landmines."
"A decade after the Ottawa Convention, which aims to clear mines, it has reduced its use, except in Colombia, told DW-WORLD, Thomas Küchenmeister of the German Association Initiatives mine."
The photo caption says: "Wahid Kerber, an Iraqi victim of landmines.",,2789277,00.html

The same photo was used in 2010 with the title: "Cluster munitions with German financing?"
This caption says: "The 10-year Kerberla Wahid was a victim of cluster munitions in Iraq."

Landmines are a serious humanitarian problem all over the world. Very big deal. Very serious issue. Read good reliable information here:

The TRUTH is that whether his name is Kerber or Kerberla, 2007 or 2010, this little boy probably picked up a land mine. Both hands are probably missing, he's got shrapnel injuries on his chest.
In Iraq, they are in common use by insurgents. It's probably NOT American. What Munger doesn't mention is that children are PAID to clear landmines. It's a reasonable guess that that's what this boy was doing.

No, President Obama did not cluster-bomb this little boy in Yemen.

Anonymous said...

Munger: "I'm certainly not a supporter of the continuing blockade of Cuba, as you seem to be."

As you seem to be.
Where does any comment offer opinion about Cuban blockade policy?

Dude, maybe you should go back to school, get your degree, take a few Continuing Education classes.
I hope that was nothing more than an irritated retort and not a serious intellectual-debate kinda response.

The point of the comment was identifying sources of your photos. It had nothing at all to do with Cuba.
And yeah, you should have used the one with the "Commander-in-Chief" caption.